Indoor Air Quality – Don’t let your building become sick!

July 17, 2008 at 10:38 pm Leave a comment

One of the hardest calls to get as a facility or property manager is when someone claims that the building is making them sick.  It is hard especially because it may actually be true and because of that it must be treated most seriously. On the other hand with our society so in love with lawsuits it is something that is also very dangerous to your professional reputation.

There are many processes, chemicals allergens and building materials that can adversely affect you buildings indoor air quality (IAQ). A great explainer is listed here as part of an opinion of the European Commission Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER). :

Excerpt for the site: “Brussels, 24 June 2008. Indoor air may contain over 900 chemicals, particles and biological materials with potential health effects. When assessing the health risks to the general population and particular vulnerable groups such as children, pregnant women and elderly people, the principles used in the EU for risk assessment of chemicals should also be applied to indoor air. This is one of the conclusions of a recent opinion by the European Commission Scientific Committee on Health and Environmental Risks (SCHER).”

There is also guidance from our own EPA: However the main tenents are these:

1. Maximize the introduction of fresh air into the space and filter this air for the elimination of outside irritants.

2. Minimize the use of caustic chemicals in the space. this also includes the off gassing common to some building materials and finishes.

3. Be very diligent about handling water intrusion into the building to minimize the chances of mold growing out of control in any of the interior space. Mold growth requires three things to grow, cellulose, darkness and water.

4. Create and diligently manage a complete janitorial plan for the building to lessen the effects of a build up of dust and dirt.

5. Comprehensive pest control using green techniques.

Now I have posted previously on all of these seperate issues and will add to those as I find additional supporting articles and evidence.  These are liste under the maintenance catagory in the side bar.

The other pitfall to be aware of is the legal ramifications of the situation.  If someone is claiming illness then this becomes a workplace injury and all of the OSHA and worker’s compensation rules apply.  The OSHA rules can be found here:

The good news is that this also provides additional resources and expertise you can call on to resolve the problem.  You should absolutely involve your superiors and your Human Resources department and potentially your insurance company that provides the worker’s compensation coverage. This frees you up to worry about the building problems and leaves the legal and medical issues to those whose job it is. By involving your superiors at the beginning you can educate them about the problem, gaining by in and streamlining getting the problem resolved.

As always I thank you for your time and interest. Please take the time to Digg, Stumble Upon or add to the other social network of your choice to help me spread the word about these issues. Please forward any questions or suggestions to:

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