The importance of the air we breathe is many times taken for granted. Indoor air quality (IAQ) is essential in the workplace, and if air quality is poor, the health and productivity of your employees will most likely decrease.
A Harvard School of Public Health study in 2015 discovered that people who work in well-ventilated offices have significantly higher cognitive function scores when responding to a crisis or developing a strategy. Those working in “green” conditions, which included enhanced ventilation and conditions with increased levels of CO2 had, on average, double the cognitive function scores of those participants who worked in conventional environments.
Reduced cognitive functioning abilities aren’t the only issue when IAQ is poor. Poor air quality in the workplace also causes such symptoms as allergic reactions, physical fatigue, headaches and eye and throat irritation. These health problems are costly to a business as they often lead to higher levels of absenteeism.
The main sources of poor air quality in the workplace include the following:
Building location – if located close to a highway, on previous industrial sites or on an elevated water table can cause dust and soot particles, dampness and water leaks, as well as chemical pollutants
Hazardous materials – even though asbestos has been banned for several years, it is still present in many public buildings; it is estimated that 125 million people worldwide are exposed to asbestos in the workplace
Inadequate ventilation – IAQ is very dependent on an effective, well-maintained ventilation system that circulates and replaces used air with fresh air; if the system is not working correctly, it can lead to increased infiltration of pollution particles and humid air
Although OSHA does not have specific IAQ standards, it does have standards about ventilation and standards on some of the air contaminants that can be involved in IAQ issues. And the General Duty Clause of the Act itself requires employers to provide workers with a safe workplace that does not have any known hazards that cause or are likely to cause death or serious injury.
Even though there is no single test to find an IAQ issue, there are measures that can be taken, as well as inspections on the ventilation and HVAC systems and a building walk-through to check for odors and look for tell-tale signs of water damage and leaks. Workplace Safety & Health’s mission is to provide our clients with premier occupational safety and health services designed to reduce workplace injuries and illnesses, which promotes client profitability. Give us a call at 317-253-9737.