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Written by
on 26 September 2017


Good air quality is essential to employee productivity – so why do so many employers overlook it?

Air quality is a crucial factor in employee productivity and wellbeing – but businesses outside heavy industry are apparently unaware of this fact. Respiratory diseases caused by inhaled particulates are a serious (potentially fatal) problem for British workers – and in many cases, these diseases could be avoided.

What is the problem?

The air that we breathe carries with it all manner of microscopic particles. Pollen, dust and pollution are around us all the time, so we regularly breathe them into our lungs without realising.

Generally, the human body is quite good at removing these particulates. However, some substances, like asbestos or silica dust, collect in the lungs and cannot be ejected. And any foreign substance in large enough quantities will cause health problems.

What effect do particulates have on your workers?

Controlling a number of particulates in the workspace is essential to preventing illnesses. Although asbestosis and silicosis are relatively well known, there are other health issues to consider.

Lower doses of particulates can also be debilitating – although the effects are more likely to be short term. Headaches, fatigue, problems maintaining concentration, and irritation of eyes, nose and ears are all common symptoms of inhaling particulates.

Even if these symptoms are short-lived, they still have a negative effect on your workers. As well as reducing general efficiency, you may also see an increase in sick days taken by employees. These tiny particles can have a major effect on the productivity of the business.

Not just construction sites and factories

In order to comply with health and safety legal requirements, factories and production lines that generate large amounts of dust will already have air filtration systems. They may even issue employees with protective equipment like face masks. These measures are dedicated to the task of reducing the amount of airborne particulates to a safe level and limiting the amount inhaled by workers.

But particulates are present in most indoor environments. In fact, even regular offices can contain high levels of dust that present a health risk to their occupants. A lack of consistent air circulation allows dust to collect – some estimates suggest that the air indoors may be five times as more polluted as out.

As a result, office workers could be at as much risk of developing respiratory problems as their counterparts working in more traditional dusty environments, like building sites.

Go green

To help maintain the health of employees, your business should conduct a review of air circulation and filtration provisions in your buildings. This will confirm that particulate levels are maintained within legal limits and that workers are not being exposed to dangers unnecessarily.

You should also consider installing plants throughout your offices; not only do they help to re-oxygenate the air, but they also help to remove pollutants, naturally. The office becomes a nicer place to work, your employees will be better protected, and you should see a decline in sick days taken because of particulate-related respiratory illnesses.

To learn more about the levels of pollution in your offices and how to better protect your employees, please give us a call.

A chartered (fellow) safety and risk management practitioner with 20+ years of experience. David provides a healthy dose of how-to articles, advice and guidance to make compliance easier for construction professionals, Architects and the built environment. Get social with David on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.

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