Staying Safe from Toxins in the Workplace
Establishing a secure and safe work environment is imperative to a productive and fulfilled workforce. Wellness programs that encourage employees to engage in physical activity help to establish good work-life balance, but what if it's the physical workspace that is working against their health? That could very well be the case if you're not vigilant about toxins that impact indoor air quality.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), "poor indoor air quality (IAQ) has been tied to symptoms like headaches, fatigue, trouble concentrating, and irritation of the eyes, nose, throat, and lungs."
There is a myriad of factors that impact IAQ including recent remodeling, ventilation, and improper temperature control. Take note of the conditions your workforce endures during their 40 hour work week; perhaps there are ways you can improve their environment and company morale at the same time.
Particles in the Air
Asbestos: Asbestos was a popular building material from 1930 through the 1970s. The mineral was used in insulation, wallpaper, roofing, siding, flooring, and ceiling tiles. When the asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) are disturbed the microscopic asbestos fibers become airborne, are ingested or inhaled, and may develop into mesothelioma cancer.
Disruption of the dormant fibers may occur during the typical aging process of a building or construction. Workspaces undergoing renovations should be inspected by abatement professionals to ensure that planned construction areas are free from ACMs.
All construction areas should be safely separated from workspaces still in daily use to prevent particles, asbestos or otherwise, from filtering into the area. Turning off HVAC systems in construction areas will also prevent exposure. Mitigate asbestos today and protect yourself and employees from a long and brutal battle with mesothelioma cancer.
Mold: Mold spores are present everywhere, and while moldy environments may be a minor inconvenience to some, many people can have severe reactions when exposed. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), those who are sensitive to mold can experience nasal stuffiness, coughing, and irritation of the throat, eyes, and skin when exposed.
Mold can be introduced to the work environment through open doors, windows, and HVAC systems. Employees may also carry mold into the building on their clothing. Mold issues should be dealt with promptly - remove the mold and remedy the moisture problem that caused the growth to prevent further mold issues.
Air Temperature and Movement
Perception is everything, especially with IAQ. Workplaces that have inadequate HVAC systems can lead to stale stagnant indoor air that exacerbates existing air quality issues. According to the American Industrial Hygiene Association, "communicable diseases like the common cold, influenza, and tuberculosis spread more efficiently in poorly ventilated buildings."
Finding the proper balance of fresh air and spent indoor air is imperative. Having a build up of spent air leads to an accumulation of human pollutants including lingering cigarette smoke, perfumes, body odors, and carbon monoxide from exhalations.
Complete walkthroughs of various work areas throughout the day to see how the temperature may change as the day progresses. Additionally, have regular maintenance performed on the building's HVAC system - especially when renovating, redesigning, or doing major workstation changes that may lead to blocked vents or a high concentration of employees in previously empty spaces.
According to OSHA regulations, all workers have the right to working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm, receive training about workplace hazards, and can file a complaint with OSHA to have their workplace inspected.
Take care of your employees' health now and they'll happily work for you for years to come. Show them they're a priority and update workspaces to promote a healthy work environment!