When working in industrial settings, there are many risks that should be monitored constantly. One of those risks is the air quality within an industrial setting. The effects of air pollution are far-reaching, and there are many hazards that can jeopardize companies and building owners. Indoor air quality can create an uncomfortable and unhealthy indoor atmosphere, and can impact the well-being of employees of a company.
How can your business improve air quality for industrial settings, and avoid the risks that come with poor air quality? First, identify the sources and causes of air pollution and poor air quality in your facility and how they affect your employees. Then implement changes within your company to mitigate risk, while keeping costs down.
Air quality standards
OSHA believes that there are certain implementation steps that must be taken to improve Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). The organization provides indoor air quality guidelines to address common complaints and risks about IAQ that can arise in an industrial setting. OSHA also identifies sources of poor indoor air quality and causes of indoor air pollution that can affect your business and employees.
There can be many sources that can affect indoor air quality. Many of these sources can vary depending on the type of manufacturing or industrial setting. Here are some of the more common sources of air pollution:
- Dust, mist and fume emissions from manufacturing processes
- Chemical fumes
- Ambient dust, mist or fume hanging in the facility from processes
- Lack of make up air due to negative pressure from exhaust systems
- Allergy to dust from forced air ventilation systems
- Intoxication and even hallucination from paint fumes
Causes of Indoor Air Pollution
In addition to sources of air pollution, there are also deficiencies in industrial settings as to why air quality problems can persist. These causes can include:
- Characteristics of the building
- Inadequate outside air supply
- Poor air distribution
- Inadequate exhaust
- Poor ventilation system maintenance
- Inadequate HVAC system capacity
Effects that Poor Indoor Air Quality has on Employees
There are many risks associated with poor indoor air quality in industrial settings that will affect your employees in many ways
The largest risks pertaining to poor air quality are health risks, as there can be many health factors associated with low air quality. These potential health factors can largely depend on sources. Medical issues that are associated with poor air quality can include: cancer, severe asthma to central nervous systems disorders, upper respiratory symptoms and severe headaches.
To a lesser degree, employees may have less productive work hours due to poor indoor air quality that has them spending more time away from their work locations (for example; taking breaks or walks outdoors). Productivity losses due to indoor air quality can result from employee fatigue, headaches, eye irritation or other effects.
How to Maintain Air Quality Standards and Implement Company-Wide Changes
One of the best ways to improve air quality standards in your company is to maintain your ventilation system. In addition, creating a compliance program and offering training sessions regarding indoor air standards would be beneficial to your employees.
Maintaining your Ventilation Systems
Ventilation systems like industrial ventilation fans and blowers, are designed only to remove contaminants, such as carbon dioxide and odors in industrial settings. Carefully evaluate using ventilation to reduce indoor air pollutants where there may be outdoor sources of pollutants, such as smoke or refuse, nearby. This reduces the level of contaminants and improves indoor air quality (IAQ).
Here are maintenance “to-dos” for your ventilation system to continue to work properly:
- Maintenance of ventilation systems
- Check ventilation filters and change them (at the very least) annually
- Recordkeeping and the development
- Implementation of the indoor air quality compliance plan
- Type of ventilation systems currently being used
Create a Compliance Program
One way to ensure air quality is to develop an indoor air quality compliance program. Creating a formal plan can provide an overview of the building and system, and how to operate the HVAC systems. In addition, the plan should include:
- Special procedures (for instance, start-ups and shutdowns)
- Operating performance criteria (minimum outside air ventilation rates, potable hot water storage, range of space relative humidities, space pressurization requirements, etc.)
- Evaluation of the need to retrofit the HVAC system when the design occupancy levels are exceeded
- Visual inspection checklist of building systems
Training and informing employees about the indoor air quality standard can help improve the air quality. A training program for workers should include information on:
- How to maintain adequate ventilation of air contaminants generated during building cleaning and maintenance
- How to minimize adverse effects on indoor air quality during the use and disposal of chemicals and other agents
Get the Coverage Needed for IAQ
By implementing the suggested changes, there will be an improvement in indoor air quality standards. However, having workers compensation insurance may provide companies with adequate coverage needed if claims are made against your organization. These claims can be very costly, and having this sort of insurance may protect your business from severe financial challenges or even bankruptcy.
Nauset Engineering has been the leading professional organization for Industrial Air Products in New England for over 55 years with a proven track record of helping companies solve their pollution control issues.