Is the indoor air quality (IAQ) in your workplace acceptable?
Let’s first define the term acceptable, which can mean anything from pleasing to barely satisfactory. But in the specific terms of IAQ, the American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Ventilation for Acceptable Indoor Air Quality defines it as:
Air in which there are no known contaminants at harmful concentrations, as determined by cognizant authorities, and with which a substantial majority (80% or more) of the people exposed do not express dissatisfaction.
Buildings are unique ecosystems unto themselves. A building’s IAQ can be affected by many factors, from building design and occupant densities; to thermal factors such as temperature, humidity and ventilation; to construction or renovation dust; to water intrusion; to thousands of potential contaminants such as mold, pollen, carbon dioxide levels, cleaning supply chemicals, or volatile organic compounds from paint and office furniture.
Left unattended, these factors can spiral out of control and cause building-related illnesses and, in extreme and rare cases, sick building syndrome. Fortunately, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the United States Environmental Protection Agency, ASHRAE, and others have published regulations, guidelines, and consensus standards for improving and maintaining indoor air quality.
While it’s difficult to create an indoor environment that is comfortable for every occupant, an environmental, health and safety or facility manager can take numerous proactive steps to help building occupants stay healthy, comfortable and productive. .
Suggestions for Proactive and Reactive Facility Management
- Establish a preventative IAQ maintenance program for managing complex commercial building systems such as heating ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems and building envelopes.
- Routinely inspect special use area, such as kitchens, labs, cleaning storage areas and maintenance rooms, which can house pollutant sources.
- Listen empathetically to occupant concerns or complaints and address them in a timely manner.
- Develop a schedule for IAQ events and file all IAQ information.
- Keep building occupants informed about repairs and the general status of the facility’s IAQ.
- Enlist the help of a professional industrial hygienist to conduct an IAQ investigation, either proactively or in response to a complaint, to collect and test data.
Have questions about ways to improve the IAQ in your facility? EnSafe has trained, experienced professionals to help guide you to a healthier workplace.