Poor Indoor Air Quality Can Affect your Health and Job Performance
Poor indoor air quality can be a common problem in workplaces. Because employees spend a large portion of their day at work, the indoor environmental quality of work facilities can have a noticeable and sometimes chronic effect on employee health. Typical undesirable air quality conditions include poor ventilation, mold exposure, temperature and humidity extremes, and potential exposure to workplace chemicals. These conditions may lead to frequent headaches, lethargy, cough, and have the potential to cause more serious conditions like asthma and pneumonia. [source: http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/indoorairquality/faqs.html]
|Image Source: osha.gov|
The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) provides other frequently asked questions about indoor air quality on their website.
If You Think Your Workplace Has An Air Quality Problem
If you believe that the air quality at your place of employment is negatively affecting your health, OSHA recommends first asking your employer to check the ventilation, heating and air conditioning systems to make sure there is no water damage and that these systems are performing adequately based on the building use and occupancy.
There is not a single test that can verify if the building has an indoor air quality problem. General measurements regarding temperature, humidity, and air flow should be monitored, and a general walk-through of the facility should turn up leaks, pest problems, and standing water. Additional tests, like radon and asbestos, may need to be performed based on building regulations.
If you have symptoms that you believe are related to an air quality problem, OSHA recommends discussing it with your doctor.
If these requests do not work, employees have the right to contact OSHA:
The Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 [OSHAct]
Under this act, employees have the right to a safe workplace. As an employee, you can file a complaint and request an OSHA inspection of your workplace if you believe there is a serious hazard or if OSHA standards are not being followed.
Options for contacting OSHA:
Online: You can find the online complaint form here: http://www.osha.gov/pls/osha7/eComplaintForm.html
Download [Fax/Mail]: You can download the OSHA complaint form [pdf] and then fax or mail it to your local OSHA Regional or Area Office (you can also request this form from one of these offices). You can find your Regional or Area office here.
Telephone: By using the office-locator tool listed above, you’ll be able to access the telephone number of your Regional or Area OSHA office.
The Whistleblower Protection Program
The OSHAct also prohibits employers from retaliating or discriminating against an employee who files a complaint or participates in additional safety and health activities [including refusing to work because of imminent danger]. There are twenty-one whistleblower protection statues.
|Image Source: whistleblowers.gov|
According to OSHA, some examples of retaliation and discrimination include:
- firing or laying off
- denying overtime or promotion
- denial of benefits
- making threats
- reducing pay or hours
If you believe that you have been discriminated for exercising your rights under the OSHAct, you must file your Discrimination Complaint “within 30 DAYS of the alleged discrimination” according to OSHA. They recommend contacting your local OSHA office right away to file this complaint.
For additional information on indoor air quality and filing complaints with OSHA, visit these helpful links:
“How to File a Complaint with OSHA” osha.gov
“OSHA: We Can Help”- information about the OSHAct of 1970 and Worker Rights. osha.gov
“Indoor Air Quality” osha.gov
“Indoor Air Quality: Frequently Asked Questions” osha.gov
“The WhistleBlower Protection Program” whistleblowers.gov