Is your workplace properly ventilated? If not, workers might be at a greater risk for injury and illness. Many employers overlook the importance of having a well-ventilated workplace, assuming it poses little-to-no threat since they don't handle toxic chemicals -- but this couldn't be further from the truth.
Just because the air in your workplace looks clean doesn't necessarily mean that it is. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), indoor air pollution is one of the top five environmental hazards, attesting to the need for better ventilation. Granted, short term exposure to polluted indoor air is usually harmless, but when workers are exposed to it on a daily basis, it can lead to serious injury.
The term "ventilation" is used to describe the act of removing old, stagnant air and replacing it with fresh, filtered air. With summer right around the corner, many business owners will be turning on their central air conditioning systems to help cool the air. In addition to removing heat, AC units also ventilate the air, helping to remove pollutants while promoting a safe and clean environment.
Now, let's take a closer look at some of the most common airborne pollutants found in workplaces.
- Volatile organic compounds (also known as VOCs)
- Microscopic fibers
- Cleaning chemicals
- Carbon monoxide
Of course, another key benefit of ventilation is its ability to regulate temperature and humidity. When workplaces become too humid, it can create a whole new world of problems of its own. The excessive moisture vapor will encourage the growth of mold, which in turn increases the risk of worker illness. Mold spores thrive in humid environments, which is why employers need to maintain a well-ventilated workplace.
There are several different steps employers can take to create a well-ventilated workplace, one of which is to change the air filter. Assuming your workplace is connected to a central AC unit, try to get into the habit of changing the air filter at least once every 30-60 days. Allowing your air filter to go unchanged for longer than 60 days drastically reduces its ability to filter pollutants from the air.
Here are some other tips to help ventilate your workplace:
- Set up several oscillating fans to move air throughout the workplace
- Open the windows
- Hire a professional heating and cooling technical to inspect your system
- Install carbon monoxide detectors throughout your workplace
- Check to make sure your air ducts are clean and free of obstruction