The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) takes workplace indoor air quality very seriously.
The CCOHS website maintains comprehensive lists and resources detailing common contaminants, health symptoms, action items and indoor air quality laws and guidelines.
As an employer, of course, indoor air quality is just one of many concerns you have to balance. Yet you don’t want to put this off until the day a worker arrives at your door, list of health symptoms and complaint form in hand and requests further investigation.
By learning the key warning signs and common causes of poor workplace air quality, you can take a proactive approach to prevent indoor air quality problems before they arise.
6 Key Signs of Poor Workplace Air Quality
There are six key signs that your employees may be delivering subpar performance due to poor indoor air quality.
Of course, indoor air quality may not be (and often isn’t) the only potential trigger for these symptoms.
It is important to notice when any of these six events begin to become commonplace throughout your office or in a particular building or department, so you can launch an investigation into the true underlying causes.
1. Increase in worker sick days
Workers calling in sick is a fact of life for all employers. When there is an uptick in worker sick days, however, it is time to take a look at why.
Reports of cold or flu, allergies, respiratory infection and breathing troubles can all potentially signal there is an issue with the quality of your indoor air.
Pay special attention if more workers are calling in sick from a particular department or building.
2. Reduction in worker productivity
Less-productive workers can also signal there may be an underlying issue with indoor air quality. This can be especially problematic if you are housed in a new-construction building that offers limited opportunities for natural ventilation.
Stale indoor air can create conditions ripe for mental fogginess, forgetfulness, headaches, respiratory symptoms and general malaise during the workday.
Before blaming it on a manager or the workers themselves, take a look at whether indoor air quality could be playing its own part.
3. Obvious signs of illness or respiratory distress
Outside of the ever-present threat of cold and flu season and seasonal allergies, increases in coughing, sneezing, nose blowing, complaints of sore throats, congestion, infection and whole departments out sick together can potentially point to contaminated indoor air.
4. Increased complaints of sub-optimal workplace conditions
If an employee actually comes forward to report suspected poor indoor air quality, too hot/too cold conditions, drafts or stale air, this is your cue to re-evaluate the conditions in that worker’s area and throughout your workspace.
5. Workers snoozing on the job
There will always be that one worker who just can’t seem to resist a bit of shut-eye on the job. But in general, if you find yourself suddenly facing a rash of worker snooze attacks, it may just be that your indoor air is to blame.
6. Increased claims to your health insurance plan
One surefire indication that workplace air quality may be compromised is more claims to your health insurance for respiratory issues.
6 Common Causes of Workplace Indoor Air Quality Issues
As more studies into indoor air quality are completed and results are made public, there is increasingly more we can learn about how to reduce toxins and clean, filter and purify our indoor air both at work and at home.
1. Poor existing ventilation
Even more than circulation, adequate ventilation is a key to keeping the oxygen content and purity in your indoor air high.
The heat recovery ventilator not only provides continual low-cost air ventilation but can also help recycle otherwise lost heat energy to lower your energy bills and balance humidity levels throughout your space.
This component can work with any central (ducted) HVAC system.
2. Humidity or moisture issues
For seasonal humidity issues, you may need to implement use of portable or central (ducted) dehumidifiers and humidifiers as the outside weather dictates.
As a perk, keeping your indoor air humidity levels between the recommended 30 and 50 percent will also guard against the growth of mould and mildew.
3. Missing or under-performing air filtration and purification
Air filtration is essential to remove dangerous particulate matter from the indoor air. HEPA stands for “high-efficiency particulate air.” The HEPA filter comes in central (ducted) or portable sizes and can remove particulates as small as 1/100th the size of a single human hair.
Air purification uses ultraviolet band-C light – the most potent light band – to change the molecular composition of gaseous and liquid airborne toxins so they cause no harm. UV air purifiers come in both ducted and portable sizes to serve any type of space.
4. Cross-contamination from other buildings or industries
If your company houses multiple operations or is located near another business that produces significant air pollution, you may need to take additional measures as outlined here to protect your workers from exposure.
5. Inadequate janitorial service
Keeping your trash emptied, surfaces dusted, floors and rugs cleaned and other housekeeping tasks attended to can reduce the amounts of airborne contaminants.
6. Inadequate extermination service
There is a delicate balance between managing the use of potentially toxic extermination chemicals and risking contamination from rodents and pests.
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