The Importance of Evaluating Indoor Air Quality

According to Louise Vallee, CSP, CIH, CPE, of Crum and Forester, office ergonomics and indoor air quality are the most common complaints of office employees. Management tends to prioritize these issues last creating more complaints from workers.

We all know that safety and productivity go hand and hand. When you can greatly improve health and comfort in an office space, you can also increase productivity from employees.

Vallee offered up a basic outline for an indoor air quality evaluation during the ASSP Safety 2019 conference on Monday morning in her session titled, "Curious and Curiouser: Remarkable Indoor Air Quality Case Studies." The most important thing, Vallee said, to include in your evaluation is the complainants from employees.

"Everyone only sees their part of the issue," Vallee said. "You must get everyone together, the employees, supervisors and managers, so you can see every problem, note commonalities and move forward with a solution."

Common complaints that could result from poor indoor quality include headache, fatigue, mucous irritation, dryness, allergy symptoms and nausea. Potentially dangerous illnesses could result from not solving poor indoor air quality such as asthma, bacterial infections, dermatitis or rash and carbon monoxide poisoning.

When conducting an evaluation for indoor air quality, Vallee stresses several things: calibrate IAQ tools, always visit the roof and communicate.

IAQ Tools. Vallee stresses that those who are conducting evaluations on indoor air quality must first calibrate their equipment, take measurements inside and out and compare. Vallee also suggests taking "Chain of Custody" documentation very seriously. These documents are often used in litigation, as attorneys are able to view them.

Visit the roof. In order to get a better look at HVAC systems, Vallee suggests always going up to the roof if it is safe to do so. Check out the HVAC system to see what's going on, in Vallee's opinion, it could make the difference. Vallee said she's seen several office space HVAC systems that are lacking filters entirely. If you cannot safely make it to the roof, ask for system documentation from your HVAC contractor.

Communicate. As stated before, communication with employees and understanding complaints and possible illnesses is key to understanding indoor air quality. Vallee suggests talking to all employees and look for commonalities. Are complainants sitting in the same area? Do they share similar symptoms? The answers to these questions could help solve air quality issues.

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