As we have spent much time in the past discussing the need for clean air ducts and healthy air quality in both the home and workplace, we’d like to also focus on some of the more remote and isolated locales of the gulf coast work environment, particularly those related to the offshore oil rigs and boats where a large percentage of our population’s family members and friends make their living. We’d also like to cover some of the many benefits available to employers and workers alike who understand the importance of breathing healthy air in the workplace, and to those who follow an IAQ plan that is in line with the maximum productivity and worker morale standards that are necessary to “stay afloat” (so to speak) in today’s challenging economy.
Many offshore rig and boat workers can make a firsthand account of this statement: When one crew member gets sick, the rest of the crew will eventually get sick as well. It has become a fact of maritime life, due primarily to the fact that everyone onboard the vessel or rig is breathing virtually the same air, constantly being filtered and recycled throughout the workspace, and there is little to no time within the average work shift to escape from these manufactured exchanges of air intake while still fulfilling the duties of the job. In fact, these workers are at the greatest risk of acquiring contagions when they’re off duty, asleep in their bunks, breathing deeply. The living quarters of a working vessel or rig are by necessity, close and compact to each other, and despite the housekeeping’s best efforts towards cleanliness and good hygiene, the greatest threats to safety and health are multitudinous and invisible, silently and imperceptibly making their way throughout each and every cabinet of the compound, and only a specific and regular plan of action can reduce the risk of a sick building or ship on the high seas.
Believe it or not, many of the same symptoms that come from a vessel or rig with a low indoor air quality rating are similar to those of buildings that were once thought to be haunted or possessed by evil spirits. Certain contaminants and microbial deposits in a structure’s airflow can create a sense of oppressiveness in the air, they have been proven to significantly drain the energy and reduce the morale of their inhabitants to a level that is comparable to clinical depression, and they can cause severe sickness and even death in the most extreme cases. Obviously, this combination of indoor atmospheric side effects is not good for business, or for the personal performance of each employee, and an unhealthy air environment can contribute to even greater injuries from negligence of basic safety measures, brought on by exhaustion or an over-compromised immune system. In short, the well-documented “sick building syndrome” is not something anyone should have to deal with offshore and removed from immediate medical attention. As with many other conditions, the best treatment is preventative.
Having a regular air duct maintenance plan in place is the best way to prevent injuries and sickness in the offshore work environment. This becomes even more important offshore, precisely because the structure’s air handling system is the only thing the workers are exposed to on a daily basis, and fresh air is not always an option, given the various shift schedules, weather conditions, and the time allotted for rest in a constantly bustling and busy