Indoor Air Quality is Crucial to Health and Comfort
By now, most of the world’s population will be aware of the pending consequences of the build-up of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere and the deadly manifestations of its role in global warming. However, there is far less awareness of how the air we breathe in our homes, offices, and factories can directly affect our health and wellbeing. In practice, indoor air quality (IAQ) can be a more significant health hazard to a building’s occupants than breathing the planet’s heavily polluted atmosphere whilst relaxing or working outdoors. Consequently, monitoring IAQ and determining ways to improve it are options that one should consider when conducting an occupational hygiene assessment.
Airborne hazards are manifold. They may be of biological origin, like bacteria and fungal spores that can cause disease or mould that might affect people with allergies or asthma. Chemicals such as carbon monoxide, radon, and volatile organic solvents may be toxic or have other adverse physiological effects. Collecting samples to assess indoor air quality offers a means to identify any potential airborne hazards, enabling a building’s owner to implement the appropriate countermeasures.
The assessment process must be thorough. In addition to sampling the air, it is necessary to collect surface samples and monitor the exposure of a building’s occupants to airborne pollutants based on computer modelling of the airflow within the workplace.
The South African Occupational Health and Safety Act No 85 of 1993 addressed the need for employers to address the various hazards faced by employees at work. However, it fell short of defining local standards and prescribing methods for monitoring indoor air quality. Consequently, any company needing a dependable IAQ assessment should be sure to appoint a service provider that will employ testing procedures fully compliant with recognised international standards.
Poor IAQ frequently results in staff members becoming prematurely tired and short of breath. In turn, these symptoms invariably lead to reduced performance, increased levels of absenteeism, production losses, and higher company costs. Therefore, it is in the interest of a company to identify and eliminate any airborne hazards that might compromise its employees’ health by arranging a professional assessment of its indoor air quality.
The phrase “sick building syndrome” is often used to describe the ill effects of poor IAQ. These typically occur in older buildings and open-plan offices with automated ventilation and climate control. Despite more than 50 years of research, no definitive cause for the syndrome has emerged. Instead, the phenomenon is generally attributed to a combination of factors. These include inadequate ventilation, low humidity, and the various airborne pollutants mentioned earlier. A more recent addition to the latter list is the ozone gas produced when operating printers and photocopiers – yet another consideration when checking indoor air quality.
IOH Solutions is an established local leader in the field of occupational hygiene and a specialist in the performance of workplace health and safety assessments. Our company is certified as an approved inspection authority by the Department of Labour. Upon receiving your request, our qualified and experienced technical personnel will employ only methodologies prescribed under international standards ASHRAE 55 and ASHRAE 62. These standards relate to the acceptable conditions for human occupancy and are crucial when assessing your company’s indoor air quality.