The building you work in is another indoor environment that can have air quality problems. Indoor air quality at the office or workplace can have much of the same indoor air quality problems as at home. Building materials, carpets, cleaning products, tobacco smoke and ventilation share the same indoor air quality challenges as the home. However, some indoor air quality problems, such as scents and fragrances, automobile exhaust, cleaning solvents, and manufacturing activities, can be more common at the workplace.
Why should you care about indoor air quality at work?
As an employee, your health may be at risk from poor indoor air quality at work. Poor indoor air quality can make your allergies and asthma worse, can irritate your eyes, nose and throat, or can result in fatigue, nausea or illness. The health effects of these symptoms can affect your well-being, and lead to poor work performance and productivity. In the long-term, these symptoms could also lead to sickness, missed work and loss of income.
When something you breathe in at your workplace causes asthma or makes your existing asthma worse, the condition is referred to as work-related asthma.
As an employer, it's your responsibility to ensure a safe and healthy work environment. Poor indoor air quality can impact the health of your employees and result in increased absenteeism, reduced productivity and potential safety hazards. You can avoid increased health claims related to poor indoor air quality by being pro-active. Talk to your employees today about their air quality concerns.
In the office there are many things than can affect your employees’ lung health, such as:
- Pressed-wood office furniture and carpet can be a source of formaldehyde.
- Poor ventilation can exacerbate asthma and allergies.
- Exposure to tobacco smoke is a proven health risk for everyone and can be a serious health threat to employees with asthma.
Personal care and cleaning products often contain scents that can cause serious health problems for some people, especially for people with lung diseases such as asthma or COPD.
If you suspect your workplace has unhealthy air, take these three steps:
- Tell your supervisor and building management that there may be a problem. Follow the usual and proper steps to alert them, as you may need to document the steps you took later.
- Tell your health-care provider about your symptoms. Report the symptoms to your company's health or safety officer if you have one.
- Work with your employer as they investigate the problem. The process may take longer than anyone wants because the underlying problems may be difficult to identify.
For more information on occupational indoor air quality, please contact the Canadian Centre of Occupational Health and Safety.