Beyond the Smog: Corporate Responsibilities for Air Quality Enhancement

As air pollution is on the rise across India which is a major concern on the health of the citizens, it’s time to be aware of its intensity, Air Quality Index (AQI) and what action corporates can take to build a safer environment within and outside their organization. The air quality index serves as an indicator devised by governmental agencies to inform the public about the current level of air pollution or the anticipated level of pollution. 

Understanding the Air Quality Index (AQI) values is essential, as they provide a classification: 0 to 50 is considered good, 51 to 100 is satisfactory, 101 to 200 is moderate, 201 to 300 is poor, 301 to 400 is very poor, and 401 to 450 is severe. Any AQI reading above 450 falls into the severe plus category. Presently, the air quality levels in various Indian cities present a concerning scenario: Delhi at 417, Mumbai City at 230, Kolkata at 259, Chennai at 39, Bengaluru at 77, Hyderabad at 124, Lucknow at 340, Ahmedabad at 212, Jaipur at 251, Patna at 304, and Ranchi stands at 107.

With this data in mind, it’s evident that the issue is not confined to a specific location; it’s pervasive EVERYWHERE! This problem directly affects the air we breathe, whether we are indoors or outdoors. The gravity of the situation necessitates a comprehensive understanding of the ubiquitous nature of air quality challenges.

When talking about this crisis and workplaces, inadequate indoor air quality within office spaces is a notable concern attributed to various factors. The presence of pollution sources can render the air unhealthy for breathing, exacerbated by inadequately designed or maintained ventilation systems. Additionally, the usage patterns of buildings can contribute to worsening the problem.

Numerous office buildings house diverse sources of indoor air pollution, posing a substantial risk to the health of individuals working within these environments. The significance of addressing this indoor air quality crisis cannot be overstated, requiring comprehensive measures to establish a safe and healthy workspace.

While one may consider construction sites, fireworks and vehicles to be the source of low air quality (and they are not wrong). 

many office buildings harbor significant sources of indoor air pollution:

Tobacco Smoke:

Indoor smoking contributes to the presence of harmful pollutants, impacting air quality.

Building Materials:

Some building supplies, like those containing asbestos intended for fire resistance, release pollutants into the air.

Formaldehyde Emissions:

Pressed wood products within the building may emit formaldehyde, a potentially harmful substance.

Chemicals from Construction and Furnishings:

Construction materials, carpets, and furniture can emit chemicals, affecting indoor air quality.

Cleaning Products:

The use of cleaning products and the cleaning process itself can introduce chemical pollutants into the indoor environment.

Air Fresheners:

Air fresheners in restrooms, while providing a pleasant scent, can contribute to the overall chemical load in the air.

Paints, Adhesives, Copiers, and Printers:

Substances emitted by paints, adhesives, and equipment like copiers and printers can be sources of indoor air pollution.

Mold and Contaminants:

The presence of mold and contaminants in ventilation systems, on walls, ceilings, and water-damaged carpets, can compromise indoor air quality.

Pesticides:

The use of pesticides for pest control within or around the building can introduce additional pollutants into the air.

In contrast to their homes, employees typically have restricted control over the indoor environment in their office spaces. With many organizations presently urging employees to return to the office, leaders must recognize the essentiality of being well-informed about the health risks linked to office buildings and initiating proactive measures.

Several factors contribute to the potential health risks associated with office buildings. Poor indoor air quality, inadequate ventilation, and the presence of pollutants from various sources within the workspace can negatively impact the well-being of employees. Furthermore, the design and maintenance of office buildings play a crucial role in either mitigating or exacerbating these health risks.

Leaders must prioritize creating a safe and healthy work environment by implementing measures such as improving ventilation systems, ensuring proper maintenance of building infrastructure, and addressing potential sources of indoor pollution. Additionally, promoting awareness among employees about the importance of a healthy indoor environment and encouraging individual well-being practices can contribute to fostering a workplace that prioritizes the health and safety of its workforce.

Here are some small steps that we can take in order to create a bigger impact for us and everyone around us:

Establishing a connection with the medics:  

establishing a connectio with a doctor, clinic, or hospital is essential for ensuring the safety of employees. Having a direct tie with medical professionals becomes crucial in addressing any health concerns arising from indoor air pollution promptly. Quick access to medical assistance is vital in case employees experience health issues related to poor indoor air quality.

In addition to immediate access to medical help, maintaining regular health check-ups and seeking guidance from healthcare experts is beneficial. These practices not only aid in early detection of health issues but also empower employees with the knowledge and advice needed to address potential health challenges associated with suboptimal indoor air quality. By fostering this tie with healthcare providers, organizations contribute to the overall well-being and health awareness of their employees.

Exploring the possibility of remote work: 

Providing the flexibility for employees to work remotely can serve as a pragmatic measure to minimize the potential hazards linked to air pollution. This approach empowers employees to establish a work environment at home that is healthier and safer, thereby lowering their exposure to pollutants present in traditional office spaces. Embracing this adaptable work arrangement not only fosters employee well-being but also showcases an organization’s dedication to prioritizing the health and safety of its workforce.

Mandatory use of FFP1 and N95 masks: 

Implementing a strict policy requiring the use of FFP1 and N95 masks is a crucial protective measure. Enforcing the consistent use of these masks in the workplace provides employees with an additional layer of defense against harmful airborne particles. This rule serves as a frontline safeguard, minimizing the inhalation of pollutants and fostering a safer work environment for all.

Utilizing desktop air purifiers:

Integrating desktop air purifiers into the office environment can play a vital role in improving overall air quality. These devices act as localized sources of clean air, effectively diminishing the concentration of pollutants in the vicinity of employees’ workstations. The incorporation of such purifiers ensures that employees are exposed to a healthier air environment throughout their work hours, thereby contributing to the preservation of their well-being and productivity.

Discontinuing night shifts: 

Temporarily halting night shifts can be a strategic measure to address indoor air pollution concerns. Night shifts typically involve limited ventilation and heightened exposure to pollutants. By eliminating or reducing these shifts wherever feasible, organizations can mitigate potential health risks associated with extended exposure to indoor contaminants, prioritizing the well-being of their employees.

Frequent Replacement of Air Filters: 

Ensuring the regular replacement of air filters and the cleanliness of air ducts is a fundamental preventive measure. Clogged filters and the accumulation of debris within air ducts can deteriorate indoor air quality over time. Adhering to a scheduled routine for replacing air filters, typically every 6-12 months, guarantees optimal functioning of the ventilation system. This practice safeguards the health of employees by preventing the recirculation of contaminated air within the workspace.

Sometimes, it’s a good idea to have experts test the air in your office. They have special tools to see if the air is okay or not. They’ll check things like air flow, humidity, smell, and more. After they’re done, you’ll know what needs fixing to keep the air in your office nice and clean for everyone. 

As we take one step towards healthy breathing, our act creates an impact on the others who further do their deed of making their immediate environment a safe place for every LIVING BEING. Let’s win against this crisis of air pollution and secure a very healthy future for every individual.

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