Improving Indoor Air Quality
When trying to make improvements to the workplace, many companies don’t even consider the actual air that is breathed in by everyone all day. Indoor air quality can be a significant problem that can have a wide range of different effects on employees throughout the facility.
Some of these issues can be immediately seen, such as with allergies. Others may take longer to develop, but can be very serious. If you are not taking air quality seriously in your facility, you are not only doing everyone a disservice, but you could be exposing the company to the risk of potential lawsuits years down the road.
With this in mind, take some time to look at five of the most important things that you should know about indoor air quality, and how you can make simple changes to improve it.
According to OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics:
Poor indoor air quality (IAQ) has been tied to symptoms like headaches, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat and lungs. Also, some specific diseases have been linked to specific air contaminants or indoor environments, like asthma with damp indoor environments. In addition, some exposures, such as asbestos and radon, do not cause immediate symptoms but can lead to cancer after many years.
5 Things to Know about Indoor Air Quality
1. Proper Ventilation and Filtering
One of the biggest problems in most workplaces is that the air in the facility doesn’t get properly circulated. As the air is breathed, moved around machinery and exposed to cleaning chemicals, it keeps picking up more and more contaminants along the way.
Over time, this air can become hazardous to your health and lead to things like headaches, allergies and many other issues. This is why OSHA and many other regulatory organizations recommend reviewing your facilities air ventilation system and filtering.
By taking the air from within the facility and venting it outside, all of these common contaminants are removed from the building itself. The new air will come in through designated sources, and if necessary, can pass through air filters to ensure it is clean and fresh. The specific type of filters and how much ventilation you need will depend on a number of factors including how large the facility is, how many people are working in it, the type of machinery used and even the geographic area around the facility.
By focusing on this type of facility improvement, you can get a steady flow of fresh air into the facility so everyone can breathe safer and easier.
2. Contaminants Buildup in Air Ducts
If your facility uses a furnace or air conditioning system, it likely has air ducts traveling all throughout the area. These ducts quickly transport the heated or cooled air to the places that need it. This is a great system, and works quite well in most cases.
Just like in your home, however, these ducts can get extremely dirty over time. They can even be a place where mold is able to grow unnoticed. When the air travels over the dust, mold and other contaminants in the ducts, it will pick up microscopic amounts of it and send it into the air throughout the facility.
This can become a significant problem over time, which is why it is important to have the ducts professionally cleaned. Depending on the type of facility, duct work in your facility should be cleaned at least once per year to ensure all the contaminants are removed and the air coming out of the vents is as clean as possible.
3. Lead & Asbestos are Still Serious Problems
When most people think about lead paint or asbestos in a facility they think that this was a problem from many years ago. The reality is, however, that there are still many facilities that have these types of indoor air quality risks present even today.
For things like lead paint, it has been permitted to just ‘encapsulate’ the paint by painting over it with the proper new paint. While this would keep the paint in place and safe, it isn’t always a long term fix. If that new paint were to come off or get damaged, the lead paint could begin flaking away and get up and into the air.
With asbestos, many companies have found that there are still places within the facility itself that had old asbestos insulation or other items. This could be a simple oversight, or it is possible that the company had gotten it treated to help contain it in the past.
Whatever the case, if even a little bit of either of these two materials is present; it can create a significant indoor air quality problem that needs to be addressed. Even if they aren’t directly causing issues yet, this is one thing you want to make sure you get taken care of as soon as possible so you don’t run into issues down the road.
Getting either lead paint or asbestos removed from your facility is something that needs to be done by a professional who has the proper tools and equipment to safely get it out of the facility. In some cases, it may even be necessary to shut down the facility while taking care of these risks.
4. Known Air Quality Hazard Areas
Another issue that is present in many facilities, but often not taken seriously enough, is having areas where there are known contaminants. For example, if your facility has a painting or chemical treatment area where paint and chemicals are sprayed onto products, this can cause the air quality to have issues.
In almost all cases, these areas will be sealed off from the rest of the facility to ensure there is no immediate contamination. If people are walking in and out of the area when the machines are engaged, however, it can cause the air quality to go down for the entire facility.
Another potential concern is if people are in the area without proper breathing masks or other ventilation gear. This can cause them to be exposed to potentially dangerous chemicals that can cause both immediate and long term health problems.
One great way to address this problem is to make sure people are aware that they should not enter without proper personal protection gear, and also that they should not open the door while a machine is in use. This can be done by putting up safety signs (which you can find here) at every entrance. Even adding a specific color of floor marking tape (similar to this) around the door will be a good reminder that the area has this danger, and everyone should stay away unless proper precautions have been taken.
5. Seasonal Problems
While many people think of seasonal air quality problems as being only an outdoor air issue, it is almost always brought inside as well. Each spring, for example, the levels of pollen and other allergens goes up in many areas. When this happens, these contaminants can be brought into the facility when people are walking in and out.
There are many great ways to address problems related to seasonal indoor air quality issues. One option, for example, would be to use HEPA filters and make sure to change them regularly. Other companies have actually turned to specific plants that have been shown to help clean the air in offices and other facilities.
There are many great ways to address these seasonal issues, but the important thing is that you acknowledge that they are there and do everything possible to keep the air in your facility clean. This way, everyone can work more comfortably, and safer all year long.
Taking Indoor Air Quality Seriously
Each of these five points are important, and there are many other things that you should be aware of as well. The bottom line here is, however, that all facilities need to make sure they are keeping the air in their facility clean and safe for everyone. This will help to prevent a variety of health problems and allow the facility to operate properly for years to come.