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12/10/2021 - Construction Safety & Health Programs

Construction sites include a large number of hazards for workers and those nearby. Safety management at TRC helps to oversee the daily activities that take place around construction projects both ...

Investigative Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Surveys

Your workplace's indoor air quality (IAQ) impacts your employees' well-being and morale. When you receive complaints about allergens, odors or other indicators of poor air quality, an investigative survey will identify the source of potential indoor air pollutants, ventilation systems issues and more. The professionals at 1Source understand how to manage the emotional, social and scientific aspects of IAQ issues. Our team can pinpoint the causes behind IAQ complaints and recommend the proper course of action.

About Investigative Indoor Air Quality Surveys

During an investigative IAQ survey, experts from 1Source will visit your workplace to determine the factors causing your IAQ complaints. Investigative IAQ surveys involve three steps:

  1. Employer and employee interviews: Interviews with the people who work in the affected site act as a critical element of the IAQ survey. A wide range of factors can influence how an environment affects employers and staff. 1Source staff will conduct one-on-one and group interviews to get a comprehensive understanding of the situation.
  2. Site inspection: 1Source team members will also examine the workplace environment for sources of contaminants and other air issues. They'll inspect HVAC systems and collect samples for evaluation in a laboratory. Some elements of the survey will also involve direct reading instruments that provide results on-site.
  3. Environmental evaluation: After conducting on-site interviews and sampling, < href="" />scientifically-trained experts will analyze the samples. The tests that 1Source scientists complete will evaluate samples for bioaerosols and other biological components. If any tests have positive results, 1Source can help you take steps to remediate the issue.

If necessary, the 1Source team can also provide expert witness services for consulting and litigation. Our team has expertise in multiple fields related to job safety and experience working with a variety of facility types.

The Benefits of Conducting an Investigative IAQ Survey

Investigative IAQ surveys can benefit your organization in multiple ways. The advantages of conducting an IAQ survey include:

  • Safety: IAQ surveys will identify potential health hazards or rule them out to help you maintain a safe workplace.
  • Staff morale: Resolving issues such as odors, allergies and diseases will improve employee morale by creating a more comfortable place to work.
  • Compliance: An IAQ survey will pinpoint possible ventilation and containment issues that you can resolve to stay compliant with OSHA regulations.

In summary, an IAQ survey will provide the information you need to create a safe and compliant workplace.

Issues That Indoor Air Quality Services Can Address

An investigative IAQ survey can address issues such as:

  • Employee complaints: Staff mentions issues related to odors, irritants, disease or other air quality effects.
  • Allergy complaints: Occupants experience worsened allergy symptoms when on-site.
  • Disease clusters: Employees and other occupants experience diseases such as cancers, Legionnaires and Aspergillosis.
  • Building-related disease: Occupants experience building-related diseases and transient symptoms.

IAQ surveys can help you resolve various problems related to indoor air quality. You can call us at 610-524-5525 to learn whether you could remediate a workplace issue through IAQ services.

Indoor Environmental Air Quality Consulting Services From 1Source

Let us assist you in understanding your IAQ evaluation and remediation options. For more information about 1Source's IAQ consulting services, request a quote now.

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Commonly Asked Questions

What Is Acceptable Indoor Air Quality?

Indoor air quality is considered acceptable when it contains a non-harmful containment level.

While oxygen is the primary chemical element our bodies obtain from respiration, it isn't the only thing in the air we breathe. Our atmosphere contains many other particles, such as carbon dioxide, nitrogen, hydrogen, methane and helium. Most of the particles in the atmosphere beyond oxygen are harmless to the human body or are so heavily diluted by others that their effects are inconsequential. However, some contaminants can have significant health repercussions.

Pollutants like carbon monoxide, asbestos, nitrogen dioxide and radon can have serious health consequences. Outdoors, the atmosphere is so expansive that harmful chemicals dissipate without causing harm. But contaminants can account for a higher percentage of the indoor atmosphere — especially in an industrial setting with equipment and processes that produce harmful chemicals.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has precise metrics for acceptable air quality and formulas you can use to see if your facility's air quality meets standards.

Learn more about indoor air quality consulting.

What Is the Connection Between Indoor Air Quality and Workplace?

Indoor air quality and the workplace intersect in a few key areas.

The first is well-being. Some contaminants in the air are harmful to the human body while others can trigger employees' allergies. Monitoring your facility's interior air quality and addressing quality corners will ensure the workplace is safe for your staff.

Indoor air quality also connects with employee morale. Employees are happier and more productive when working in an environment free of allergens, odors and hazardous fumes. Uncovering and resolving air quality impurities will allow your business to retain engaged employees.

In addition to safety and employee morale, interior air quality also intersects with regulatory compliance. Good air quality indicates your ventilation and other contamination mitigation practices comply with OSHA regulations.

One of the most effective ways to measure the connection between your workforce and your facility's indoor air quality is to conduct an investigative survey. Gauging employee responses will help you recognize when to mobilize air quality improvement efforts.

Learn more about indoor air quality consulting.

What Do Air Quality Tests Measure?

Air quality tests assess whether or not a building qualifies for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. LEED certification confirms two things. The first is that the building uses fewer resources than an average building. The second is that the building's operation promotes a healthy interior space. Air quality is a significant part of LEED certification.

During LEED testing, a certified industrial hygienist (CIH) will document and verify a building's air quality according to LEED's standards for the concentration of contaminants in a given space. The sample the CIH takes will vary in size depending on the space's square footage and how many air handlers the space contains. The following are LEED's limits for seven categories:

Carbon monoxide: Either nine parts per million (ppm) or within two ppm of outdoor carbon monoxide levels.

  • Formaldehyde: 27 parts per billion.
  • Ozone: 0.075 parts per million.
  • Particulates (PM10): 50 micrograms per cubic meter of air.
  • Particulates (PM2.5): 15 micrograms per cubic meter of air.
  • Target volatile organic compounds: 500 micrograms per cubic meter.
  • Total volatile organic compounds: 35 specific compounds.

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What Is Indoor Air Quality Assessment?

An indoor air quality (IAQ) assessment is a series of tests that measure the performance of a space's ventilation, pollutant reduction and air filtration systems. These systems should adequately prevent microbiological growth, odors, diseases and intrusive vapors.

The LEED IAQ assessment is one of the most prominent tests for commercial facilities. LEED assessments take place after construction but before occupancy. During a LEED IAQ assessment, the proctor will study the facility's airflow, collect samples from its air and surfaces and interview site personnel. The data collected will ensure the ventilation, pollution reduction and air filtration systems promote good IAQ with:

  • Ventilation: Supplying fresh air from outside while removing interior contaminants.
  • Pollutant and contamination reduction: Utilizing building design and maintenance choices that reduce contaminant generation.
  • Filtration and cleaning: Filtering outdoor air to remove contaminants before the ventilation systems sends the air into the building.

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What Types of Air Contaminants Are Recognized in Industrial Hygiene?

OSHA's industrial hygiene description recognizes air contaminants as an example of the on-the-job hazards an industrial hygienist recognizes. The types of air contaminants an industrial hygienist must recognize include:

  • Dusts: Solid particles that result from in-house industrial processes.
  • Fumes: The result of a volatilized solid condensing into cool air.
  • Mists: Liquid left in the atmosphere most often resulting from condensing a vapor back into a liquid.
  • Aerosols: A form of must with small, breathable liquid particles.
  • Fibers: Solid particles that are long and thin.
  • Gases: Fluids that expand to occupy their containers.
  • Vapors: Gases that result from evaporating substances that exist as solids or liquids under room temperature and pressure conditions.

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What Affects Indoor Air Quality?

An industrial building's air quality results from the relationship between its ventilation systems and both interior and exterior pollutants. A building should have natural and mechanical ventilation infrastructures that are strong enough to manage the pollutants created in and around the building. Every building has an air exchange rate that describes how well its ventilation systems perform given the building's design, construction and operation.

Pollutants can come from inside and outside the building:

  • Interior pollutants: There are a few interior pollutant sources. Pollutants can be the chemicals in cleaning supplies, paints or insecticides. They also occur from combustion sources — the products of burning substances through industrial processes. The materials used for construction can also cause interior pollution if they contain asbestos fibers, mold, radon or others.
  • Exterior pollutants: Outdoor pollutants can infiltrate the building through its filters and structural factors like cracks, joints and openings in the walls, floors and ceilings. Common outdoor pollutants are gasses and odors from emissions systems, volatile chemicals in local soil and groundwater or the dust workers carry on their clothing.

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Why Does Air Pollution Increase During Winter?

You may notice a decrease in IAQ during the winter. Lower IAQ in the wintertime coincides with a rise in air pollution. Air pollution increases in the winter for a few reasons.

One reason for the winter's pollution increase is that cold air is denser than warm air and therefore moves slower. Any pollution that becomes trapped in the air will stick around during the winter because it takes longer for the polluted air to evacuate the area.

What's more, the winter's cold means buildings burn more fossil fuels to remain warm. Buring more fossil fuels fills the air with harmful emissions. Due to the cold temperatures, those harmful emissions are trapped in the atmosphere.

Additionally, cold air is drier than warm air. Low humidity dries mucous membranes and causes inflammation around the eyes and now. Cold air also allows bacteria to survive, encouraging the spread of respiratory infections.

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Why Does Air Quality Get Worse in The Summer?

While the summertime sees a reduction in pollution, air quality still suffers. The season's warmer temperatures pave the way for mold, humidity and dust levels to increase.

Industrial facilities begin to kick on their air conditioning systems to keep cool in the summer. However, unless the ventilation systems have been cleaned, air conditioners will pull mold and dust into the building. Air conditioning systems decrease interior humidity, which allows dust and mold to travel more easily through the ductwork and into each room.

Attempting to mitigate the air conditioner's impact on the building by opening windows to cool a room leaves the interior air susceptible to unfiltered dust, mold and moisture.

Cleaning your industrial HVAC system's ventilation at the start of the season is critical to IAQ during the summer.

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What Factors Must Be Controlled to Achieve Acceptable Indoor Air Quality?

IAQ is subject to various environmental factors, and pollutants are some of the most influential. The pollutant concentration in an indoor environment is two to five times denser than in outdoor environments. Here are a few environmental factors you must control to achieve acceptable IAQ:

  • Indoor contamination: Roughly 16% of IAQ concerns stem from pollutants inside the building. Equipment emissions, office supplies and mechanical systems each emit potentially harmful chemicals. Furnishings can hold dust, fibers or mold. Bacteria can grow on moist surfaces.
  • HVAC systems: Your heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) system should control moisture and filter incoming air from outside. Proper HVAC maintenance should encourage acceptable air quality.
  • Human activity: Tobacco smoke and perfumes can worsen IAQ. Additionally, actions like cleaning with chemicals, improperly storing or disposing of chemicals, using products that contain volatile organic compounds or spraying pesticides may detract from IAQ.
  • Outdoor contamination: Outdoor pollutants like vehicle exhaust, moisture, odors from dumpsters or seasonal allergens can penetrate an insufficient HVAC system.
  • Other factors: Miscellaneous factors like roof lask, accidental spills or microbes released during remodeling can impact IAQ.

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What Is SMARTouch for Indoor Air Quality?

SMARTouch is IAQ assessment technology developed by experienced industrial hygienists. SMARTouch makes it easy to conduct investigative or proactive IAQ surveys. Additionally, SMARTouch will walk you through visual assessments and help pinpoint warning signs of suboptimal air quality. All data is visible through an intuitive user interface.

SMARTouch expedites sampling and surveying processes. The software makes it easy to conduct tests and surveys, categorize data, develop custom reports and share findings with key decision-makers. The intuitive digital interfaces improve efficiency by eliminating errors and including rapid searchability. SMARTouch includes six standard report formats that you can use as they are or customize to your needs. Use SMARTouch to manage:

  • Industrial hygiene data.
  • Asbestos or lead surveys and abatement practices.
  • Office ergonomics.
  • IAQ surveys and maintenance tactics.

Learn more about indoor air quality consulting.

Can You Test Your Own Workplace Air Quality?

We recommend seeking professional assistance when testing IAQ. Professional IAQ consultants like 1Source Safety and Health, Inc. have experience developing and conducting IAQ assessments for various industrial settings. We offer a wide selection of IAQ consulting services and can ensure your facility complies with all relevant regulations.

Learn more about indoor air quality consulting.

How Do You Monitor Indoor Air Quality?

Monitoring IAQ is a multifaceted process that involves numerous proactive surveys, inspections and assessments. When you monitor your facility's IAQ, you'll more easily identify, mitigate and prevent air quality concerns. At 1Source, we utilize innovative equipment and effective practices to monitor IAQ at industrial facilities.

Our proactive IAQ efforts include:
  • Periodic air sampling: Testing the air for contaminants through samples and direct readings.
  • Duct inspections: Examining ducts for obstructions and contaminants that inhibit ventilation.
  • Mechanical hygiene surveys: Inspecting HVAC systems for dust and debris and recommending cleaning strategies.
  • Walk-through surveys: Visually observing your facility, equipment, systems and operations.
  • HVAC assessments: Inspecting HVAC ventilation systems and maintenance plans for effectiveness.
  • Occupant assessments: Analyzing building activities that impact IAQ.
  • Chemical usage assessments: Inquiring about daily chemical usage to develop IAQ improvement strategies.
  • Adjacent business impact: Determining the impact neighboring facilities may or may not have on your IAQ.

Learn more about indoor air quality consulting.

Could Office Air Quality Affect Your Work Performance?

Your office's IAQ can directly impact employee performance. Better air quality promotes a safer, healthier work environment. As a result, your workers will feel better and be happier at the office so they can perform at their best.

According to research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, air quality impacts employees' cognitive function, focus, response time and productivity. If you're seeing a down-tick in employee performance, taking IAQ improvement efforts can put your office back on track toward its goals.

Learn more about indoor air quality consulting.