Many people spend a significant amount of time indoors, such as in their home, office or in other types of buildings. All workplaces must have an adequate supply of fresh air, under Regulation 6 of The Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. In many cases, windows or other openings will provide sufficient ventilation in some or all parts of the workplace. However, mechanical ventilation systems may need to be installed in enclosed workplaces.
Sick building syndrome
Poor indoor air quality can lead to what is known as ‘sick building syndrome’. Some of its symptoms include:
- Dry or itchy skin or skin rash
- Dry or itchy eyes, nose or throat
- Poor concentration, or
- Stuffy or runny nose.
This can lead to a lack of productivity or even employees having to take time off to recover, especially those with existing medical conditions, such as asthma.
The principal causes of poor indoor air quality include: over-crowding, inadequate ventilation, contaminants originating from certain types of building materials, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter and radon.
Importance of a maintenance regime
Having a maintenance regime in place for the mechanical ventilation system is the best way to prevent or reduce poor indoor air quality. Therefore, all mechanical ventilation systems, including air-conditioning systems, should be regularly and adequately cleaned. They should also be tested and maintained to ensure that they are kept clean and free from anything which may contaminate the air. Keeping records of the cleaning, inspection, testing and maintenance operations will help to sustain efficient operating systems. To spot and tackle problems promptly, it is important to have established procedures for controlling abnormal conditions.
Another important factor is the cleaning regime. The following cleaning frequencies are suggested as a guide, depending on individual circumstances:
- Wet areas of plant, including cooling coils and humidifiers (annually)
- Ventilation systems, including grills and vents (annually)
- Windows and light fittings (monthly/3-monthly)
- Internal surfaces, office carpeting, furnishings and furniture, including desks and chairs (daily), and deep cleaning of soft furnishings (annually).
The S2 Partnership have experience in undertaking Indoor Air Quality Assessments that will help to build up a profile of air quality in buildings, and an experienced consultant will be able to provide improvement measures to reduce exposure to air pollutants and provide occupants with safe air to breathe.
The S2 Partnership is a GRESB Premier Partner and assists members with health & well-being and environmental agendas. The S2 Partnership provides effective occupational safety support, health & safety management systems, risk assessments, auditing, training and competent support. We provide practical and commercially-aware advice to ensure risk is identified and managed proactively. If you would like to commission an air monitoring assessment or discuss your health & safety requirements, contact our expert team.