12 Feb Improving Indoor Air Quality: A Basic Primer for Businesses
Maintaining healthy indoor air quality is an important step for all of your employee’s health. Regardless of whether you work in an industrial, service, or office setting, common allergens and irritants may be closer than you realize. Here are the minimum guidelines provided by the American Lung Association to help companies of all sizes to maintain adequate air quality levels in the work environment:
Ensure Tobacco-Free Environments
All workplaces should be 100% tobacco-free to ensure that employees are breathing safe and healthy air. Secondhand smoke is a serious health hazard causing more than 41,000 deaths per year. It can cause or exacerbate a wide range of adverse health effects, including lung cancer, respiratory infections, and asthma. Download a sample tobacco-free policy.
Establish a Fragrance-free Policy for Employees and Visitors
Fragrances can and do affect indoor air quality. They also represent potential health hazards for employees with allergies and chronic lung diseases. Fragrance-free policies usually include language such as: DO NOT wear perfumes, colognes, aftershave, scented lotions or scented hairspray while at work. This sample Fragrance-free Policy can help you get started. Additionally, strong-smelling cleaning products can actually be detrimental to your efforts to create a healthy indoor environment. This sample Letter to Building Management can encourage the use of fragrance-free cleaning products.
Proactively Maintain Healthy Indoor Air Quality
Many office buildings have significant indoor air problems and poor ventilation due to improper operation and maintenance of HVAC systems.
- Develop and implement indoor air quality management plans that address dampness problems, mold contamination, maintenance and repairs, cleaning, integrated pest management, and other factors as identified in the EPA’s IAQ in Large and Commercial Buildings.
- Learn about dampness and mold in buildings and what management and building owners can do in the CDC, NIOSH: Guidance on Dampness and Mold in Buildings.
- Learn about proper building ventilation and HVAC maintenance.
- Use the HVAC Checklist to assist with maintenance and record-keeping.
Use Integrated Pest Management Techniques
Exposure to pesticides can cause both short-term and long-term health problems. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an effective and environmentally-sensitive approach that relies on common-sense practices. With current and comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interactions with the environment, IPM uses the most economical and safest means while avoiding exposure to harmful chemicals that worsen indoor air quality. Simple steps to ensure a pest-free environment:
- Clean refrigerators weekly
- Dispose of food in pest-proof waste bins
- Work with building management to dispose of trash daily
- The Environmental Protection Agency’s Integrated Pest Management for Buildings is available all individuals responsible for pest prevention and management in buildings including building managers, cleaning staff, maintenance staff, building occupants, and pest management professionals.
Manage Employee Exposure to Unhealthy Outdoor Air Quality
Impurities in the air such as ozone and particle pollution can be possible sources of lung irritation for all employees. In addition, individuals with asthma and COPD are particularly sensitive to the health risks of outdoor air pollution. Particle pollution can increase the risk of heart disease, COPD, lung cancer and asthma attacks and can interfere with the growth and work of the lungs. Reducing workers’ exposure to outdoor air pollution, especially on high pollution days, can be crucial to the health of your employees. To reduce worker exposure to high air pollution days:
- Establish a “work from home” policy, especially for employees with chronic lung diseases, to minimize their exposure to outdoor air pollutants on days with unhealthy levels of air pollution.
- Limit outdoor exposure for employees, especially employees with chronic lung diseases, when air quality levels are orange or higher (when possible).
- Check air quality forecasts daily and avoid work outdoors if air quality is at unhealthy levels (red or purple).