When we think of air quality, we often think about the quality of air in outdoor environments. However, we usually spend more time indoors than outdoors and should give equal importance to air quality in indoor environments.
Similarly, the air quality inside a workplace plays a significant role for the employees who work there. Most workplaces are fully air-conditioned and have inadequate ventilation systems that do not allow fresh air to pass through, affecting air quality.
What is Indoor Air Quality (IAQ), and Why is it important?
Indoor air quality or IAQ is the air quality within and around buildings such as offices and schools.
Breathing quality indoor air is essential for humans to be healthy and function properly. Poor indoor air quality can affect the health and performance of employees, hindering the success of organizations.
Moreover, the use of materials such as printer ink, cleaning products, and more can lead to indoor air pollution, causing severe health problems such as asthma, pneumonia, and so on.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recognizes that poor IAQ can be harmful to employee health, and employers should proactively rectify indoor air quality problems.
If you are an employee, here’s why should be concerned about poor IAQ -
- It can affect your physical and mental health.
- It can affect your performance at work.
- If you have asthma or allergies, it can worsen them.
- It can cause eye, nose, lung, and throat irritation.
- It can cause you to miss work due to health effects.
- You may face salary-cuts due to increased absence from work.
If you are an employee, here’s are some reasons to address IAQ problems -
- It is your responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy environment in your workplace.
- Poor employee health can cause increased absenteeism and health care expenses.
- Decreased productivity due to poor employee health can affect the goals of your company.
Causes of poor indoor air quality at work
Many factors can cause poor IAQ at your workplace. Some of the most common causes include -
- Presence of environmental pollutants such as dust, carbon monoxide, due to insufficient ventilation systems.
- Presence of chemical contaminants such as formaldehyde, polyurethane, etc.
- Building design and construction flaws such as poor window and door openings.
- Presence of environmental tobacco smoke.
- Use of air contaminants such as perfume and printer ink by building occupants.
- Improper functioning of the HVAC system.
- Ongoing renovation activities such as painting and cleaning that release pollutants in the environment.
- Improper disposal of garbage and storage of food products.
- Presence of dampened structural surfaces.
Ways to reduce air pollutants and improve indoor air quality in the workplace
As mentioned earlier, air quality in an office is of equal importance to both employers and their employees alike. Therefore, both have to take steps to ensure that their workplace is free of air pollutants and harmful contaminants. Doing so will improve the working environment and benefit health and productivity as well.
Here are some steps that employers should take to address poor IAQ at their workplace -
- Identify the contaminant sources and take the required steps to substitute, enclose, or eliminate them in your workplace. For instance, if there is renovation work in a part of your office, set up barriers for containing the pollutants.
- Educate your employees on the sources and effects of pollutants and encourage them to take action or alert the management in case of hazardous exposure.
- Encourage your employees to dispose of their garbage and store food properly.
- Ensure that regular cleaning and maintenance activities are properly done in your workplace. Make sure that such activities are completed when employees are not present to reduce their exposure to chemicals and other pollutants.
- Install proper ventilation systems to ensure the uninterrupted flow of fresh air throughout your workplace.
- Add indoor plants in your office as they absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the air.
- Conduct regular air quality inspections such as humidity checks to identify possible pollutants.
- Use air-cleaning devices such as dehumidifiers and air purifiers.
- Perform routine maintenance of the HVAC system to ensure that it is functioning correctly.
- If required, hire professionals to evaluate and address poor IAQ issues at your workplace.
Now, here’s what employees can do to improve the IAQ at work -
- Regularly clean your workstation to prevent the accumulation of dust and other pollutants.
- Store your food correctly, preferably in air-tight containers.
- Ensure proper hygiene and take steps to eliminate unwanted odors.
- Dispose of garbage properly.
- Raise any concern regarding poor IAQ to the management immediately.