Workplace conditions have a substantial impact on employee performance. By workplace conditions, we aren’t just referring to an employee having the opportunity to advance, being recognized for a job well done, or salary or benefit offerings. Believe it or not, the quality of the air in the workplace has just a substantial impact as all of the above. Most have already heard the term sick building syndrome (SBS) being used to describe situations where occupants of a particular building experience health and comfort effects from spending time in the building. However, employers have just recently begun to realize the extent to which a sick building can effect employee output.
What Causes Air Quality Problems In The Work Environment? Every environment has a unique combination of external and internal factors. So, what causes problems in your neighboring business isn’t necessarily what’s causing problems in your business. Knowing this, each environment must be evaluated to determine what combination of factors is present in any particular building.
One factor that has received a great deal of attention from the media lately is chemical contaminants. The consequences of chemical contaminants are sometimes fatal. This type of contaminant enters the air one of two ways – off gassing occurring from the internal operation of equipment or machinery or from the contaminants found in chemical products like pesticides and fertilizers being blown inside the building. In either case, these contaminants are likely to accumulate in the environment and cause health effects if there isn’t an adequate supply of circulating fresh air.
Contaminants caused by fungi, mold, or bacteria are also concerns. Building fungi and bacteria are often the result of carelessness and are usually discovered during routine site inspections. If the environment is hospitable, fungi and bacteria begin to grow very quickly. They are commonly found in places like a wastebasket containing food, a poorly or infrequently cleaned coffeepot, or filthy staff break room. All of these sites of contamination can quickly add up and become a major problem. On the other hand, mold is an altogether different issue. It’s more often uncovered through a professional inspection and requires professional removal.
The detrimental effects of poor air quality can spread rapidly. Resolutions should be initiated immediately after the source of contamination is identified. Of course, it’s best to prevent the contaminants from becoming an issue in the first place. According to The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, the following steps can be helpful to maintain good air quality in your building:
- While the HVAC isn’t running, the condensation pan should be inspected and cleaned of debris. A solution of 1% to 5% sodium hydrochloride can be used to sanitize the condensation pan. Rinse the pan with clear water.
- Some HVAC units with rooftop outdoor air intakes might need to have a bird screen installed. The installer of your unit can usually tell you if this is a necessary step. If so, it should be inspected monthly.
- Make sure that all rooftop exhaust fans are within operational guidelines. If not, they should be immediately replaced or repaired.
- Since a leaky air filter can decrease the effectiveness of the filter, it should always fit tightly within its rack and not have any open spaces or gaps.
- Routinely inspect intake air vents. Negative pressure could occur if the exhaust fans are operational and the air vents are blocked. This can cause the HVAC system to become imbalanced and produce moister untempered air. The end result is moisture control problems.
- Routinely clean any accumulated dust from the fan coil unit and fiberglass liner. If the fiberglass liner has deteriorated, has turned black, or is otherwise soiled, then it should be replaced.
- Prior to turning the HVAC system on, you should properly exhaust the building. Any warm and humid air that has accumulated during non-operational hours can condense when it’s mixed with the cool air from the air conditioner. The added moisture from condensing might create a rain forest effect.