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Americans spend more than 90% of their lives indoors, and much of that time is spent inside office buildings, warehouses, restaurants and schools among other types of businesses.
Given that we spend so much time inside, employers around the country are starting to think twice about their Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) standards in an effort to create the safest, healthiest work environment possible.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) cautions that exposure to indoor air pollutants commonly found in our workplaces can negatively affect your health “soon after exposure or, possibly, years later.”
Businesses realize the responsibility they have to create and maintain a safe and healthy work environment for their employees and customers.
We’ll examine the air quality from a few indoor scenarios that you might relate to in order to show how air quality can affect your health. Then, we’ll explain how employers can maintain good IAQ to keep their workers safe and healthy.
In general, buildings are structures that have mechanical ventilation systems to regulate indoor air. When buildings do not pull adequate amounts of air in from outside, it can make your indoor air stale. Further, if the quality of the outside air isn’t purified through the ventilation system properly, it poses potential risks to workers’ health.
If your office building has a poorly designed HVAC system, or has not been properly maintained, then health problems arising from a number of pollutants, such as carbon monoxide, dust, mold and cleaning supplies, can go up dramatically.
Depending on your occupation, you are subject to different air quality problems that are unique to your workplace. Read on to find out more.
Many workers feel safer in an office environment than they do at home, but the EPA cautions otherwise:
“People generally have less control over the indoor environment in their offices than they do in their homes. As a result, there has been an increase in the incidence of reported health problems.”
Breathing the air in poorly ventilated offices amidst other people, breathing carpet dander or mold and even chemicals used to clean the office, can become dangerous to workers.
Businesses are thrilled when they grow in size and may remodel their office space to accommodate more employees. When this occurs, the office building’s design and specifications may no longer meet the specifications that were designed for the original HVAC system. This could prohibit healthy air flow.
To avoid an HVAC overhaul but maintain worker safety, employers should consider personalized air purifiers for their workstations, or larger Medify Air purifiers from Buyhive Technologies for areas up to 2,500 square feet. The EPA believes that “controlling gaseous or chemical pollutants may require more specialized filtration equipment,” and air purifiers meet that need.
By its nature, cooking will produce higher temperatures and increase humidity, making ventilation in the kitchen of the utmost importance. The outside environment is also critical, as ventilation areas where air comes in need to be clean and devoid of trash and chemicals. Similar problems can also arise from delivery trucks if the restaurant has a designated loading area.
Also, smoking indoors may be a thing of the past for some people, but consider that 23 states in the union still allow indoor smoking in some capacity.
If patrons are smoking, then maintaining good ventilation in the dining area is absolutely essential for worker (and patron) health.
Indoor air pollutants are particularly important to address in schools, as children with young lungs will feel irritants more than adults. Most school buses still run on diesel engines, which produce particularly harsh smoke for the lungs. Outdoor air quality is also a factor for ventilation, especially for schools that reside in cities or industrial zones.
Many workers experience health symptoms due to poor air quality at work. The Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have IAQ standards, creating a difficult problem for employers to solve, and an even more difficult work environment for their workers. But OSHA does have guidance on what may cause poor indoor air pollution and how it affects workers.
Companies will see a diminished productivity level from its employees who experience the negative effects of indoor air pollution. Common symptoms include physical pain from headaches, or irritation of the eyes, nose, throat or lungs. These symptoms and others make it harder to work, such as fatigue, and trouble concentrating.
To make matters more difficult, there are several preexisting health conditions that can be grossly exacerbated from poor air quality at work. Respiratory conditions such as asthma, which is very common, can easily be irritated by damp, dusty or dirty environments. In fact, the EPA reports that “Nearly 1 in 13 children of school-age has asthma, which is the leading cause of school absenteeism due to chronic illness.”
Exposure to chemicals such as cleaning agents can contribute to indoor air pollution. But there are far harsher chemicals such as asbestos and radon, that are particularly deadly offenders.
Fortunately, they are not as much of a problem as they were decades ago. However, if employees are exposed to these, or other harsh chemicals, employers and workers must consider that while there may not be immediate symptoms, down the road the outcome could be cancer or other health problems.
OSHA may not be empowered to deliver industry wide standards for IAQ yet, but they do provide specific air quality instructions to create a healthy work environment. OSHA’s findings are of major relevance to employers, as they provide solutions as big as major overhauls of ventilation systems, as well as guidance for workers who want to help their own situation.
OSHA reported on a study of office air quality and found that the three leading causes are “inadequate ventilation, contamination from inside the building [sic] and contamination from outside the building.” Fortunately, there are plenty of ways employers can resolve these issues to create a better and healthier work environment without replacing their ventilation system altogether.
Employers have resources at their fingertips, such as our experts at Buyhive Technologies, who provide a consultative approach to air quality at work. We are a highly focused distributor of work safety products, and we distribute Medify Air purifiers for workers’ safety. We work with you to define a plan of action based on your type of business in order to implement the best way to improve air quality.
Keeping the air in your workspace pure and free of harmful elements is Buyhive’s top priority. Purchase our tried-and-tested, superior air purifiers for your office, school, restaurant, warehouse or healthcare facility today!