Poor indoor air quality may impact productivity and increase absenteeism

More than half of all workers in Belgium are dissatisfied with the air quality at their place of work. Such was the conclusion of a survey conducted by Mensura on a sample of over 4,000 workers in various sectors. “The importance of healthy air in the workplace is often overlooked,” explains Dr Maurits De Ridder, research assistant in Occupational Health Sciences at Ghent University.

“Poor indoor air quality is harmful to human health, especially if people are working in such an environment for eight hours a day,” informs Dr De Ridder. “Common complaints include odour nuisance, irritated eyes and a dry throat. In the long term, these symptoms may lead to increased absenteeism. Due to poor ventilation, viruses also remain longer in the workplace and spread more easily among the employees present.

Productivity also suffers from poor air quality. Employees may suffer from headaches or fatigue due to high CO2 concentration, which in turn will negatively affect their efficiency.”

Don’t wait for symptoms to occur: take timely readings

Dr De Ridder: “Employers usually pay insufficient attention to the supply of sufficient volumes of healthy air, even though, in theory, air quality readings are part of the standard risk analysis. Normally, the air quality is only analysed when employees start complaining of actual symptoms.”

As an employer, however, you are responsible for ensuring that there is sufficient fresh air in the workplace. “In concrete terms, the CO2 concentration must generally be lower than 800 parts per million (ppm), unless you can demonstrate that this is impossible for valid reasons. In any case, the CO2 concentration must never exceed 1,200 ppm.”

4 steps to improve air quality in the workplace

Since ‘ventilation’ does not cover all aspects of the issue, lawmakers decided to replace the term in the law with ‘air quality’. The following 4 elements are essential to stimulate this quality – and consequently also the productivity of your employees.

1. Identify internal and external pollution sources
Examples of internal pollution sources include a printer releasing dust, fumes emanating from new furniture, unhygienically cleaned floor coverings and irritating cleaning products. Addressing the sources is the most effective way to ensure air quality.

2. Ensure sufficient ventilation.
This can be done by installing a ventilation system or opening windows and doors. Supplying enough fresh air will not necessarily improve air quality, however. In some urban areas, the outside air is heavily polluted and those harmful contaminants find their way inside the buildings through the ventilation. Air filtration is a good solution.

3. Provide a modern and well-maintained ventilation system
A state-of-the-art ventilation system removes polluted indoor air and supplies fresh air. Regular maintenance is essential as a poorly maintained ventilation system may affect the health of workers due to the spread of dust and micro-organisms.

4. Schedule periodic measurements
Indoor air quality will vary. The only way to avoid a deterioration in the air quality is through periodic monitoring. Measuring CO2 levels and checking the ventilation system are the most effective methods.

How is the air quality in your company?

Having analysed the indoor climate in your organisation, Mensura proposes preventive measures. In doing so, we increase the comfort and satisfaction of your employees and keep them healthy at work. Don’t hesitate to contact us.