Workplace Remodeling Can Impact Indoor Air Quality — How to Protect Employees
A workplace remodeling project can mean substantial improvements in your business’s performance, customer satisfaction, and employee contentment and efficiency. While the project is underway, however, it can be a nuisance to everyone who enters your building. Indoor air quality can be reduced dramatically during a remodeling project, which can also lead to exposure to harmful substances that can threaten or degrade employee health. Here is a brief guide to keeping your indoor air quality at acceptable levels and protecting your employees during remodeling of your commercial facility.
What Might Affect Your Indoor Air Quality
Tearing out old structural components can disturb many types of substances that could end up in your indoor air. Some of these substances may only be an aggravation, while others can have serious short- and long-term health effects. The renovation project could reduce your indoor air quality by exposing employees to pollutants and contaminants such as: Particulates
Probably the most common pollutant encountered during a remodeling project, particulates are small particles or fragments of physical material that can be inhaled or that can settle on your skin and cause irritation or other reactions. Particulates in your indoor air can include:
- Metal fragments
- Stone and masonry
Fiberglass fragments can get on employees’ skin and cause itching and irritation. Dust and powder can get into the lungs and cause allergy or asthma attacks, breathing problems, or other respiratory troubles. Harmful particulates, such as asbestos, PCBs, lead or other material, can be extremely dangerous at the moment of inhalation and in the future.
Volatile organic Compounds
Volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, are potentially harmful fumes, odors and gases. They can be produced by:
- Paints and varnishes
- Carpeting and flooring
- Cleaning materials
- Plastics or vinyls
- Construction materials
Fabrics or furnishing VOCs can irritate the eyes and mucous membranes in the throat, nose and sinuses. They can trigger asthma attacks or cause problems breathing. Often, VOCs simply smell bad, creating disagreeable odors that can cause nausea.
Biological contaminants are living microorganisms that can cause health or respiratory problems. They can include:
- Mold spores
- Animal droppings
- Animal fur or carcasses
Biological materials can cause disease and serious health problems. Mold is a particularly dangerous substance.
Protect Your Employees
During a renovation project, all reasonable precautions should be taken to minimize employee exposure to the types of substances listed above. Protect your employees by:
- Informing employees when and where renovations will happen and advising them on how to avoid exposure to particulates and other contaminants.
- Developing a plan to identify areas where contaminants could be released, what types of contaminants may be present, and what to do to maintain indoor air quality and minimize the presence of contaminants.
- Ensuring that proper seals and containment processes are used to prevent exposure, such as temporary plastic walls or increased ventilation.
- Hiring certified and licensed contractors who know how to perform renovation projects with the least amount of harmful exposure to building occupants.
- Ensuring that all key personnel know what to expect during the renovations and are well-informed about emergency procedures and what to do if an employee is exposed to any contaminants.
- Making sure that all construction personnel have the proper personal protective equipment for the job, such as respirators, eye protection, gloves, head protection and foot protection.
- Revising HVAC systems or ductwork temporarily to prevent contaminants and particulates from being picked up and carried to other parts of the building, along with the conditioned air that heats or cools your building.
- Leaving as much unoccupied space as possible between business operations and the remodeling project. If exposure occurs…
- Respond quickly to any employee exposure to contaminants.
- Document the incident carefully
- Identify material that may have been encountered
- Help the employee get immediate medical attention, if needed.
- Make sure steps are taken to prevent a recurrence of the exposure.
- Let building occupants know what has been done to prevent recurrence.
Our goal is to help educate our customers about Plumbing, HVACR, Fire Protection and Alarm Systems in Mechanical, Commercial and Residential settings. For more information about preserving indoor air quality during remodeling projects and to view projects we’ve worked on, visit our website!