Investigating Indoor Air Quality Complaints-March 2009

Monthly Round Up of Important Ideas and Standards in
Industrial Hygiene and Safety 

March 2009

IN THIS ISSUE:  Office Indoor Air Quality Complaints

When employees call attention to symptoms such as headaches, sneezing, or other illness, there may be cause for concern. If symptoms lessen when personnel are out of the building, poor indoor air quality in the workplace may be the reason. It is important that the manager or safety professional address these complaints. There are steps that can be taken to identify the problem and point to a solution:

  • Start by assuring employees that their complaints are taken seriously.
  • Interview the employees individually to determine symptoms and the extent of the problem. Use a questionnaire to help in the interview process. Results of this survey can reveal that the problem is specific or wide spread. It may show that complaints involve certain employees, areas, processes, or times of the day. Such information can be useful in pinpointing the problem.
  • Make a walk-through of the areas of complaint. Look at equipment that may emit vapors or dusts.
  • Tour the outside of the building to determine whether there are pollution sources that may enter the building, e.g. Vehicles parked by the air intake may allow fumes to enter.

The HVAC system is often the cause of indoor air quality complaints. Determine whether the system is working properly and is adequate for the facility. Check to see that air supply and intake registers are not blocked, and look for signs of mold or leaks. Check to see that the temperature is consistent throughout the area. Maintenance personnel or an HVAC contractor may be needed to help with the evaluation.

By being proactive, you can calm employee fears, and make the first steps to identifying and solving the problem. If indoor air quality problems persist, it may be necessary to contact an industrial hygienist for expert assistance.

For more information on this topic and to discuss your company’s safety and industrial hygiene needs call OccuSafe at (214) 662-6005 or visit us at

OccuSafe Environmental and Safety, Inc. provides skills and expertise to recognize, evaluate and control hazards and injuries in the areas of industrial hygiene, occupational safety and health.   OccuSafe services companies of all sizes in a range of industries.

This newsletter is published monthly by OccuSafe Environmental and Safety Services, Inc.   Feel free to forward it to friends and colleagues.

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