We’re all aware of the negative implications pollution and poor air quality has upon us. Our health is continually and detrimentally affected by pollutants that cause increased rates and risks of asthma, respiratory and inflammatory disease. Risks do not stop there as evidence suggests these pollutants are a major cause of cancer, and heart disease – unfortunately for those currently suffering with a heart or lung condition their risk is amplified.
We know the government are attempting, some may argue not strongly enough, to reduce the level of emissions within London. Although it is evident such plans are failing to evoke enough change, Brixton Road has already breached the legal limit set by the European Union 18 times. Evidence suggests that Government compliance to ensure the levels of nitrogen dioxide fall within a safe limit will not be achieved until 2026. These are alarming facts that should, rightly so, leave us with a feeling of nervousness around our health when living in a city that still, even with charged improvements, relies so heavily on road transport.
Simple Changes Make a Real Impact
Clean air day reminded us that we can all implement simple changes in our everyday lives to help reduce the amount of air pollution we emit per person. We can opt to walk or cycle to work or leisure activities. If transportation is needed maximising the use of public transport, or car sharing with colleagues – not just saving the planet but creating opportunities to become more friendly with the people who work within our offices.
But what can we do when it comes to internal air pollution, and more specifically when it comes to the office environment?
Internal Air Quality
What is internal air quality? This refers to the level of air quality within an enclosed space, your office, and the amount of pollutants that impact the health and comfort of those working within this space.
Within the built environment, especially in London, offices very often don’t have the capacity to open windows to allow ventilation – cooling systems are often used in place. Although, with the facts available it is more than likely safer to actually keep windows shut when offices are located close to high road traffic areas.
There are various things Facility Managers can implement to ensure the air quality is at a level that is both safe and comfortable for all employees. We’ve listed below some of our top tips.
Our Top Tips to Make Sure Your Office Has Peak Internal Air Quality:
- The importance of plants to act as natural filtration systems: As we mentioned previously some buildings don’t have the capacity to open windows, and those that are placed near busy roads will actually encourage pollutants to enter the office space when open – this is a big no, no for air quality. To overcome this ensuring the office has various plants that act as natural filters – ideally green leafy varieties should be favoured over flowering plants. It’s recommended for peak filtration one plant should be used per every 100 square feet to effectively impact air quality and remove toxins. Moreover there are numerous benefits to having these leafy friends dotted around the office. The most important being they are notorious for creating a calm and stress-free environment, increasing creativity and productivity.
Recommended plants to have within the office are: Spider Plants, Dracaena, Peace Lilies, Bamboo Palms and Aloe Vera.
- Reduce the release of VOC’s in the office environment: VOC’s (Volatile Organic Compounds), are emitted as gas from both solids and liquids into the air. Numerous products leak VOC’s, they are found in scented air fresheners, cleaning products and even furniture and floor coverings. It is obvious that removing all such products is impossible for a functional environment to be created. We suggest that where possible controls are put in place to limit the number of VOC’s made available within the office environment.VOC’s act as irritants to the eyes, nose and throat and can lead to frequent headaches or fatigue in those who are continually exposed. This problem is maximised if an efficient air filtration system isn’t available and traditional ventilation by opening a window isn’t possible. Your employee health is a gauge to access the quality of your air, if continual headaches and fatigue is being expressed a red flag should be raised.Facility managers can help to monitor the release of VOC’s by reducing the number of scented fresheners used within the room. Ensuring any filtration system in place is regularly cleaned and filtration parts are replaced to prevent dust build up, and the removal of pathogens or moulds that build up within the filtration system.When choosing an office cleaning provider selecting those, like Abelian, that has a full range of toxic chemical free and biodegradable product range available is so important. By facilitating this cleaning approach VOC levels within the environment are reduced and managed to safeguard your employees. Environmental impact is also minimised, creating a win-win situation.
Effective and regular office cleaning: As mentioned above when choosing a cleaning provider attention must be paid to the cleaning product range. However this isn’t the entire solution to increasing the air quality within your office space – the cleaning schedule is imperative to creating peak hygiene and reduce the cross contamination of pathogens.
Carpets are a hub for pathogen and bacterial growth, whilst absorptive hard floors further create a safe haven for optimum growth. Mould, dust and bacteria are able to easily grow and spread in spaces that don’t receive adequate cleaning. Or when cleaning is carried out in a way that merely moves rather than removes these build ups.
There are predictable times throughout the year when viral outbreaks are considerably more likely to affect all office environments. Offices that do not have a reactive system in place to sanitise and disinfect all surfaces within the office increase their risk of employee absenteeism. Abelian builds into all of their contracts a reactive system that ensures your office isn’t detrimentally affected by seasonal viral outbreaks, with time and cost effective solutions.
Employing solutions that effectively remove the effects of dust build ups, regular cleaning of surfaces, emptying of bins and cleaning of kitchen areas all go towards reducing the number of airborne bacteria and pathogens will directly impact the quality of your office air.
- COSHH and hazardous exposure: COSHH is in place to ensure that all handles of substances and are following the right guidelines in control of hazardous substances that can have a detrimental impact on health. When the option to use biodegradable cleaning products hasn’t been chosen is it so important that your cleaning provider effectively manages the internal level of hazardous substances. These substances come in many different forms: dust, chemicals, gases, vapours and mists – the list is not exclusive to those mentioned.At Abelian we follow the guidelines set out by the COSHH training and therefore are able to successfully determine if there is any exposure risk and know what measures we can put in place to safeguard against this. Being educated with practical knowledge and understanding means all of Abelian’s cleaning team are able to guarantee internal air quality is not masked by high levels of dangerous chemicals or dust. Furthermore, the storage and usage of cleaning products is done in a way that poses no hazardous dangers to both our cleaners and our client’s employees.
- Moisture and damp control: With poor ventilation in offices moisture and dampness can create a breeding ground for the mould, dust mites and the bacteria we’ve spoke of in the previous sections. Those with a predisposition to asthma are greatly affected but also are those with weakened immune systems and suffer with skin problems. Irritants and toxins are often by products of high levels of these unwanted additions. It doesn’t sound like the healthy nor creative office environment you want does it?Humidity can come from multiple causes, the most often being due to water leakages from pipes or exterior penetration, new built environments where internal water has yet to dry or, from condensation where ventilation is lacking. It is recommended room humidity should be between 30-50%.There are numerous cost effective solutions that can be put in place to reduce an offices risk of damp and also prevent the air becoming too dry and leaving employees with sore heads and irritable eyes. Drip pans, air ducts and vents must not only be installed but also cleaned and emptied regularly to ensure no bacteria or mould / mildew build up occurs – keeping air quality at a peak. Opening windows merely ajar can be enough to discourage condensation requiring only a 30 minutes max to take effect. Temperature control of a room will assist in preventing dryness within the air and the irritants mentioned. When air filtration systems are used once again it is crucial that theses are maintained and cleaner periodically to prevent pollutants being re-filtrated into the room.