Build Better Breathing Air into Your Workplace

Yesterday, we looked at substances that can cause or aggravate asthma that are often found in the work environment—both where they are being manufactured and also at the point of use. We also identified some industries in which exposure to asthmagens—asthma-causing chemicals—might be of greatest concern. Today, we’ll look at strategies employers can use to reduce asthma triggers in the built environment.

As a bonus, many of these strategies will improve indoor air quality for all workers, not just workers with asthma. Workers who react to indoor air contaminants differently—for example, workers who suffer from migraines, seasonal allergies, or skin sensitivities—will also benefit from cleaner air.

Achieving cleaner air

Employers can reduce exposures to these substances by:

  • Purchasing with care. When buying raw materials, building materials, or furnishings, ask what is in them and how much, and select those with a reduced asthmagen content. The same strategy can be used effectively to reduce asthma-triggering exposures to cleaning products.

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  • Keeping it clean. Many asthmagens are dusty; keeping the work area clean and dust-free will help workers breathe more easily.
  • Keeping it dry. Mold and mildew, which can cause many kinds of breathing problems, thrive in wet areas and HVAC systems. Dry out wet areas, and keep HVAC systems clean.
  • Improving ventilation. Contaminants accumulate inside buildings when circulation is poor. Make sure your ventilation brings in adequate quantities of clean, fresh air from outdoors. For workers in manufacturing, local exhaust ventilation may be needed.

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  • Addressing renovation issues. Contaminant levels can be especially high during renovation and remodeling activities when materials are new, so take measures to increase ventilation or keep workers out of areas being renovated.
  • Planting … philodendrons? Studies have shown that plants in the workplace can remove common contaminants from the air and improve overall air quality. Philodendrons, dracaena, peace lilies, English ivy, spider plants, weeping figs, and bamboo or reed palms have all been found to noticeably improve the quality of indoor air.

Here’s another way to help your employees breathe easier: make use of the safety resources that BLR® provides.

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