With the many challenges facing local business owners in today’s fast-paced and often cutthroat arena, most companies adhere to a list of priorities in which safety in the workplace is the number one concern. Most successful companies in the industrial or fabrication market, whether offshore or on land, whether big or small, local or multinational, have an extensive and ongoing safety training program for their employees and business partners. We all know that productivity depends upon the safety, cleanliness, and overall health of the work environment. Some larger operations even require sub-contractors to go through their own safety training courses simply to be allowed on-site for a temporary project, as we at ECS have done many times in the past for our clients. However, despite the extensive efforts and oversights put in place on a daily basis to prevent injury and accidents on the job, there is a much more sinister and invisible threat that can pose an even greater long-term risk to industrial employees than even the most obviously dangerous equipment or machinery –this threat is called “sick building syndrome,” and its effects can be devastating to the productivity and longevity of an industrial worksite.
According to a recent study conducted by the American Industrial Hygiene Association, a group of over 12,000 environmental health and safety professionals, the most serious threat facing today’s workers is poor indoor air quality (IAQ). The quality of the air inside the workplace is an ever-changing and highly reactive condition that can go through several ups and downs within a single day. In a closed space where vapors from chemicals interact with the oils, gases, dirt and grease of the machinery and its operators, this interaction of physical, chemical and biological contaminants has been identified as the main cause of temporary shutdowns, extensive cleaning or renovations, and total labor and production losses that account for hundreds of millions of dollars. Since the rise of the Industrial Revolution, we have taken great strides towards making industry more cost-effective and environmentally friendly, but sometimes these energy-saving practices, like having co-joined offices or living areas next to the manufacturing site, can pose even more serious problems for the health of their inhabitants.
There are many different factors that can negatively affect the quality of the air inside the workplace. Some of the usual culprits include: contaminated outdoor air, improper ventilation or circulation, mixed-use buildings, standing water, off-gassing from chemical products, insufficient housekeeping and dust and fiber production. However, the most important and all- inclusive factor directly related to poor IAQ levels is the condition and construction of the HVAC system—the air conditioning and the source of the air that it distributes throughout the facility. Obviously, any other contaminating factors released into the air will all be collected, combined and dispersed amongst all the ducts in the building, and if the HVAC system is not routinely checked, maintenanced, and cleaned by a certified IAQ professional, then the company is taking a risk with the lungs of each and every one of its employees, including the Chief Safety Inspector!
If you are noticing a pattern of increasing sick days from your employees, a moldy smell or a dark and unsightly buildup around the vents in your offices or living quarters, it’s time to call in a professional IAQ specialist to inspect your HVAC system and to put together a plan for having your ducts cleaned and disinfected on a regular maintenance schedule. ECS can help you formulate an IAQ strategy that works best for your facility and your budget, including recommendations on the design and filtration of the airflow as well as a regularly scheduled plan for air duct cleaning and inspection. Stay tuned for more on how ECS can help you make your business and your breathing better, from the inside out.