Special Topics in Safety Management

How Can You Protect Workers from IAQ Risks?

Learn what you could and should be doing to prevent and control indoor air quality (IAQ) problems and protect employees from health risks.

OSHA recommends a management approach to IAQ problems—the same systematic means that you might use to address other safety and health issues. The elements are familiar:

  • Management commitment
  • Training
  • Employee involvement
  • Hazard identification and control
  • Program audits

According to OSHA, “Management needs to be receptive to potential concerns and complaints and train workers on how to identify and report air quality concerns.” If employees have issues, it’s the job of leaders to assess the situation and take corrective action.

Building owners and managers should develop and implement an IAQ management plan to address, prevent, and resolve problems. EPA recommends selecting an IAQ coordinator and policies, assessing the current status of indoor air quality through periodic inspections, performing necessary repairs and upgrades, and implementing follow-up assessments or other needed steps.

If you lease space, you should become familiar with the building management’s strategy for resolving IAQ problems. It’s important to know whom to contact in buildings where there is mixed use and pollutants may come from a variety of sources. Leases should specify IAQ performance criteria, such as specific rates of ventilation.

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OSHA recommends a team approach to solving problems and building consensus around indoor air. An IAQ team should include building occupants, administrative staff, facility operators, maintenance staff, healthcare staff, contract service providers, and other interested individuals.

Control Methods

There are four primary methods of reducing indoor air pollutants.

  1. Source management. This is considered the most effective. It involves the removal, substitution, and enclosure of sources. An example is installing low-volatile organic compound (VOC) carpets. Another is establishing temporary barriers to contain pollutants during construction.
  2. Engineering controls. An example is a local exhaust system such as a canopy hood that removes sources of pollutants before they can be dispersed into a building’s indoor air. A well-designed and functioning HVAC system controls temperature and humidity levels.
  3. Administrative controls. These are management activities that keep employees from IAQ hazards. Among these is scheduling work to eliminate or reduce the amount of time an employee is exposed. For example, maintenance or cleaning should be scheduled when fewer building occupants are present.
  4. Good housekeeping. Keeping the workplace clean can also help. Recommended practices include using mat systems that prevent dirt from entering the environment, disposing of garbage promptly, storing food properly, and choosing cleaning products that minimize pollutants.

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Let’s Clear the Air About Training

When asked in a BLR poll what’s the best way to get employees to work more safely, 74% of safety professionals surveyed said “training, training, training.”

That’s why we want you to know about a comprehensive, but easy-to-implement training program called the OSHA Training System.

As its name implies, the OSHA Training System is a complete system to meet your full training needs. All the materials are prepared in advance, so no prep time is required. All you do is reproduce what you need and put it to use.

Materials include:

  • 32 complete safety units, meeting every key OSHA standard. Each includes full background for trainers, a ready-to-use safety meeting, and follow-up handouts. View a Table of Contents.
  • Quizzes, handouts, and copies of employee booklets, coordinated to the safety meetings. (Additional booklets can be bought in any quantity at a discount.)
  • A complete training recordkeeping and tracking system that tells you which employees need what training, and then tracks your program to ensure they get it.
  • Quarterly updates, included with the program. You receive at least 4 new safety units every 90 days, covering new OSHA standards and training needs.

If you share the common problem of never having enough time or the right materials for training, we’d suggest you examine the OSHA Training System program. We’ve arranged for you to do so for up to 30 days at no cost or risk. Just let us know and we’ll be happy to make all the arrangements.