Indoor air quality is so important to health and productivity that not only has the Occupational Health and Safety Administration considered the topic, they offer guidelines for employers to help ensure appropriate steps are being taken to ensure safe indoor air quality for those who work in offices and other indoor spaces. Poor ventilation and circulation of air can lead to the accumulation of mold spores, pollen, dust, and even dangerous gases, including VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) regularly off-gassed by standard office furniture. The resulting poor indoor air quality can lead to symptoms in employees ranging from irritated eyes, mouths, lungs, throats, and noses to more serious respiratory conditions when long-term exposure occurs.

What Is Indoor Air Quality Testing?

It is often all too easy to overlook the importance of indoor air quality, but to do so could prove risky. Evaluating the indoor air quality in your office is the best way to establish what air quality issues, if any, exist in your space. Through the testing process, a professional can arm you with the proper steps and knowledge to alleviate the situation. Indoor air quality testing isn’t simply a matter of inhaling deeply and sniffing for unpleasant odors or air staleness. It is a technical process that requires state-of-the-art equipment and the experience and education to install and utilize said equipment, then interpret the results.

What Equipment Is Used for Indoor Air Quality Testing?

One of the simplest machines used for indoor air quality testing is a hand-held device that measures the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in an indoor space. High levels of CO2 are indicative of poor ventilation and the need for more air circulation or high-efficiency air cleaning office plants. There are also portable devices that can measure temperature, humidity levels, dew point, wet bulb temperature, and the percentage of air from outside, as well as CO2 and carbon monoxide (CO).

Unfortunately, handheld and portable devices are relatively limited in terms of what they can record and analyze and how accurate their readings are. Many professionals who test indoor air quality prefer long-window testing, meaning that samples are tested over the course of 24 hours or more to ensure the final assessment includes as much data as possible. This prevents a single pocket of low quality (or high quality) air in a building from skewing test results.

Preferably, the equipment being used for testing should be able to detect and measure mold spores, VOC’s, and other toxic or dangerous gases. The samples collected from inside are compared with samples gathered outside of the facility, which will provide a baseline for air quality in the area. The samples taken inside will be tested for temperature, relative humidity, CO2, carbon monoxide, and hydrogen sulfide parts per million, as well as other VOC’s, such as formaldehyde.

One machines that tests for these particles is a photoionization detector (PID), which is capable of nearly-instant readings and detects VOC’s and their prevalence in a space. When air samples are collected, gases and compounds are often examined using a gas chromatograph, which will produce readings that indicate what gases are present in an environment with a very small margin of error. While brands vary, in general, air quality test equipment is highly specialized and delicate, and should be used by trained professionals who can properly handle the devices and analyze the results produced. Testing companies such as Hawk will then provide suggestions on how to address any issues within a facility to ensure clients’ businesses are compliant with worker safety requirements.

How to Arrange an Indoor Air Quality Test

If your office hasn’t been tested for indoor air quality, there may be issues that could be affecting worker health and performance. Depending on the severity of the air quality issue and the types of VOC’s or gases employees are exposed to, this could impact health insurance costs, productivity, and liability. Don’t take chances; call Hawk Equipment Services, Inc. today.

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