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Poor air quality can result in a myriad of problems, from an increase in fatigue through to carbon monoxide poisoning. Help your staff breathe easy by using these seven easy steps.

1. General Ventilation

Ventilation systems should be provided to ensure workplace air is of acceptable quality, humidity and temperature. Air conditioners or heaters can be used and, where required, refrigerated air-conditioning. These need to be compliant with the relevant codes of practice.

2. Air Quality Assessments

Assessments of air quality should be carried out at various points around the workplace and the need for exhaust ventilation at each point established. The assessments will typically include monitoring for the following:

  • Carbon dioxide
  • Combustion by-products (e.g. from gas cooking or heating)
  • Ozone (from processes utilising ultraviolet light)
  • Volatile organic compounds (e.g. from carpets, furnishing, paints and adhesives)
  • Airborne particles (e.g. fibres, dust, etc.)
  • Microbiological pollutants (such as viruses, dust mites)
  • Unpleasant odours (including harmless ones).

Particular attention should be paid to the following:

  • Conditions that promote BRI (Building Related Illness), such as still, stuffy, hot or dry air.
  • The air quality in locations where workers suffering from asthma, or other respiratory conditions, may be present.

3. Continuous Monitoring

Sometimes it is considered necessary to continuously monitor the air quality, as determined by an appropriately qualified occupational hygienist. Where the air quality is below the recommended levels, local exhaust ventilation will usually be installed.

4. Administrative Control Measures

Where it is impossible or impractical to provide adequate ventilation, administrative measures shall be implemented. This could include task rotation, rostering, or any other measure that would reduce the exposure of personnel to poor air quality, especially those suffering from asthma or other respiratory conditions.

5. Labs and Fume Cupboards

Legislative and Australian Standards requirements apply to laboratory fume cupboards and spray booths. These should be followed.

6. Ongoing Issues

Ventilation equipment, both general and local, should be inspected and maintained on a regular basis, in accordance with the manufacturer’s inspection and maintenance schedule.

7. Stopping Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

Control measures should be in place to prevent poisoning from Carbon Monoxide (CO) emitted by petrol, gas and (to a lesser extent) diesel powered motors. These measures shall include the following, as appropriate:

  • Eliminating the need to use CO emitting machines;
  • Substituting CO emitting machines in enclosed or poorly ventilated areas with other motors;
  • Reducing emissions by utilising ventilation, increasing air flow and regularly maintaining the CO emitting machines;
  • Limiting the period of time personnel are exposed to CO (e.g. rostering);
  • Using Personal Protective Equipment (PPE);
  • If PPE is used, air-supplies respirators must be used. It should be noted that commonly available air purifying respirators are not effective against CO.

General advice warning

The information on this site is of a general nature only. It does not take your specific needs or circumstances into consideration. You should look at your own situation and requirements before making any decisions.

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