During the fall of 2015, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration finalized a rule regarding preventive controls of human food. The final rule is part of the legal obligation of the FDA to provide guidelines that align with the Food Safety Modernization Act, a law signed into legislation in early 2011.
According to the FDA, the law is one of the most comprehensive reforms of food safety laws in the last 70 years. Prior to the signing of FSMA, laws were designed to respond to food contamination outbreaks. That has now changed, as the focus shifts more to preventing contamination.
Statistics from 2014 collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stated that throughout that year, 846 foodborne illnesses were reported, with 13,246 individuals falling ill and 21 fatalities. To help prevent these outbreaks, the FDA’s rule establishes regulations for manufacturers and compliance requirements to ensure food doesn’t become contaminated during the production process. These regulations specifically outline sanitary guidelines, which include air filtration systems.
What is the rule?
Preventive controls of the finalized rule indicate that within a food-processing plant, systems are required to ensure hazards are eliminated or minimized. The FDA stated that this requirement covers food allergens and sanitation controls.
While food manufacturing plants are likely outfitted with air filtration systems, the FDA has imposed compliance deadlines to ensure all aspects of food processing follow the rule and have the proper air filtration systems in place. Small businesses will have two years to comply, very small organizations, defined as, defined as those with less than $1 million in annual revenue, will have three years and every other company must comply in a year of the final rule’s publication.
Role of Air Filters in Food Production
Air filters, specifically HEPA filters, clean out the air when various foods are manufactured. It’s a process a majority of consumers likely don’t think about as they sit down to eat at the dinner table, but it’s one that has a huge effect on the final product.
For example, the process of making yogurt involves the filtration of plant air, according to Michael Bryne, a business and technical manager at EHL Group, a company that specializes in various engineering fields. He stated in a LinkedIn post that yogurt facilities need point-of-use air that is filtered to a sterile level, otherwise the final product may not turn out as intended.
Food processing plant managers and executives will have to ensure their facilities are outfitted with air filtration systems to minimize the risk of food being exposed to contaminants. Since companies will have time to comply with the FDA’s final rule regarding preventive controls for human food, they can contact Air Impurities Removal Systems to find the best filters available to use during the food production process.
Facing the constant risk of bacteria and regulatory pressures from federal agencies, food manufacturers must ensure their products are free from all sources of contamination, including the air. Maintaining safe and hygienic air quality levels not only provides employees with a comfortable work environment but also reduces the possibility of contaminants that are commonly found during food manufacturing.
Air should especially be controlled if it comes into direct contact with food. For example, common foods that are processed using air filtration systems include eggs. To prevent contamination of eggs by micro-organisms such as salmonella, eggs are sent through in-line conveyor belts, scrubbed with automated machinery, dried with filtered air and sanitized with chlorine misters.
Proper safety measures can help prevent the growth of microorganisms and the accumulation of particulates such as dust. Microorganisms that can harm food and, consequently, people are airborne and live within droplets, according to Food Safety Magazine. If the air is unfiltered, this could pose a challenge to facilities that wish to keep their structural features, such as overhead pipelines, clean and sanitized. As a best practice for food manufacturers, facilities should have filtration systems to safely remove airborne contaminants and improve the air quality of the building.
Sources for Contamination
When monitoring the air quality for food production factories, companies should note the physical volume of the facility as well as likely sources of food contamination and vulnerable areas in production lines. Sources of contamination could include raw materials used for production, packaging and movable equipment. Since machinery can generate exhaust, placing extractor arms near this equipment can effectively control potential air contamination. People can also bring particulates into the workplace as employees can track in dust and dirt on their feet or clothing. Dust can also cause micro-organism growth unless these particulates and various other contaminants are captured by air filtration systems.
Controls for Contamination
Temperature is an important factor for how food manufacturers can prevent airborne contamination, according to a report by Auburn University Department of Animal Sciences.
“The simplest, most straight-forward method of controlling processing room air conditions is to make sure that all HVAC units are in good working order and consistently maintaining temperature,” the Auburn University study said. “Additionally, doors to processing rooms should be kept closed at all times to reduce the chance of cross contamination and to assist the cooling units in maintaining temperature.”
Of course, proper air filtration goes hand-in-hand with temperature control. Food Safety News suggested the type of products within the facility that are being processed should determine the amount of filtration for incoming air. For example, products that are susceptible to contamination on a micro-level should utilize the highest standard filters.
It is also important to keep ventilation systems running as the risk of contamination grows as time passes.
“It has also been shown that as the day progresses, the amount of air contamination increases,” Auburn University researchers said. “In fact, as the week progresses, there is an increase in the overall contamination of air with bacteria and mold.”
Industrial and manufacturing news brought to you by Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc.
While food safety may be on the forefront of some consumers’ minds when doing their shopping this year, food processing companies may also want to step up their commitment to safety in the workplace. As food facilities operate equipment and tools that may emit hazardous gases and fumes, workers may be at risk for long-term exposure to chemicals.
A food manufacturing company was recently fined by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration for $42,000 for six safety violations that may have led to workers being adversely exposed to ammonia. OSHA said the company failed to maintain the facility’s ventilation system, which is one of the most important aspects in ensuring worker safety, especially when it comes to hazardous fumes and gases like ammonia. The ammonia, a hazard that is supposed to be accounted for during proper process safety management, was used for refrigeration at the plant and managed to become released after a forklift damaged an ammonia storage container.
“A proper safety management program is meant to anticipate and plan for an array of failures that could cause the release of hazardous chemicals,” said Casey Perkins, OSHA’s area director in Austin. “Given the multiple deficiencies in this program, it’s fortunate no serious injuries resulted.”
Effects of ammonia on worker health
As a colorless but strong-smelling gas, ammonia can lead to a number of negative health effects, including causing workers to have difficulty breathing and experience chest pain, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). In addition to the symptoms of ammonia exposure, NIOSH said this gas can also become flammable at certain concentrations, usually when there is a 16 to 25 percent mixture of ammonia released into the air.
Companies that want to be proactive in protecting their workers from hazardous chemical exposure often invest in air filtration solutions that allow employers to extract poisonous fumes while still maintaining a productive work environment. Oil mist collectors could also be an important safeguard against the chemical risks of ammonia as contact with lubricating oils could cause the gas to become even more flammable.
“When mixed with lubricating oils, its flammable concentration range is increased,” according to OSHA.” It can explode if released in an enclosed space with a source of ignition present, or if a vessel containing anhydrous ammonia is exposed to fire.”
With chemicals in the workplace potentially mixing and resulting in negative health consequences, companies must invest in the right engineering controls to guard their workers against long-term side effects.
Indoor air pollution and air quality news brought to you by Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc.
Craft Breweries Are Particularly Vulnerable to CO2 Contaminants.
In the last 20 years, craft brews have amassed a following that would have been unimaginable back when our Founding Fathers briefly entertained the idea to create a federal brewery to curb the growing popularity of spirits with the American public. Though the idea was eventually dismissed, malt beverages remained a favorite among the signers of the Declaration Of Independence. So much so, that when Thomas Jefferson retired from public service, he engaged in the art of beer making full-time. President Jefferson and his wife used hops and malts grown near their Monticello estate and developed their first bottled homebrew in 1812.
A lot has changed since then. Craft brewing is no longer a hobby only for gentlemen in the political elite. It has grown into a wildly popular global enterprise.
Other than the distinction, craft brewers include brewpubs, regional craft breweries, and microbreweries.
Craft Beer’s Meteoric Rise and What Exactly is a “Craft Brew”?
To get some perspective on the meteoric rise of craft breweries in America, consider the following statistic. In 1994 there were just over 500 microbrewers, today there are over 5000. Craft brewers are so ubiquitous that the majority of Americans live within 10 miles of one.
The American Beer Association defines it thus: (1)
An American craft brewer is small, independent, and traditional.
Small in that its annual production is 6 million barrels or less. Independent if less than 25% of the business is owned or controlled by an alcohol industry member that is not itself a craft brewer. And, traditional if the beer is derived from conventional or innovative brewing ingredients.
Craft Brewery Workplace Dangers Presented by CO2 Contaminants
It’s no surprise that with such rapid growth and the need to meet consumer demand, some craft brewers have been unprepared for the dangers that poor indoor air quality can create. Even large non-craft breweries, with their sophisticated worker protection systems and safety protocols, can fall victim to the perils of CO2 contaminants. Take, for example, an incident at Anheuser-Busch five years ago. OSHA cited the brewing giant for failing to protect workers from CO2 contaminants as they worked in brewery cellars (2). The following year seven plant workers died at a Corona Brewery production facility in Mexico after entering a fermentation tank for routine maintenance. The Corona Brewery deaths were believed to be a result of noxious inhalation from toxins that included carbon dioxide. (3)
What Are CO2 Contaminants and What Are Their Role in the Brewing Process?
Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is a naturally occurring chemical compound (containing 2 oxygen atoms and one carbon atom). Carbon dioxide is a common and ever-present natural gas. It is colorless, odorless, and is an important part of Earth’s carbon cycle. All humans and animals carry CO2 in their blood and exhale it when they breathe.
In the brewing business, carbon dioxide is used in carbonated beverages. It is also an organic result of the fermentation process. When overexposed to CO2 contaminants, a range of hazardous side effects, including central nervous system and respiratory damage, can occur. And when carbon dioxide levels are dangerously high, fatalities can follow. (3)
In any brewery, CO2 contaminants might accumulate – as a result of a leak or poor IAQ – in confined areas like fermentation tanks or walk-in coolers. And because elevated levels of CO2 are undetectable to unsuspecting workers, (4) toxic poisoning can strike instantaneously – with no indication to the victim. (5)In most cases, dizziness, headache, and increased heart rate will occur. But at that point, a person may be too confused to recognize the symptoms or too ill to respond. Asphyxiation, unconsciousness, and death could follow. (6)
Though fatalities from carbon dioxide poisoning are rare in big, established breweries, they do happen, as the aforementioned examples prove. The craft brewer, absent the same large-scale engineering and safety procedures that large manufacturers have in place, may not as easily apply comparable measures. For this reason, small breweries must be proactive in implementing stringent safety measures to ensure that CO2 contaminants are contained at all times.
At AIR Systems Inc, we protect our customers in the craft brewing industry with our stellar products. For the safety and peace of mind of you and your workforce, contact us today for a free indoor air quality assessment from one of our skilled and experienced environmental specialists.
Dostoevsky said, “There is not a thing more positive than bread.” Both nourishing and comforting, bread offers warmth and security to those who ingest it.” Yet, the safety and wellbeing of those who make it is in jeopardy. Illness associated with milling flour and baking bread was reported as far back as the 1700s when respiratory and allergy-related symptoms were first recorded. Modern-day immunological techniques that measure allergens have identified flour and grain as the root cause of allergic irritation, sensitization, and respiratory illness in bakers worldwide. Despite being the universal ingredient for baked goods, raw flour – when in dust form – is a hazardous substance.
The specific health condition suffered by those who labor in the baking or milling industries goes by numerous monikers. “Baker’s Lung”, “Baker’s Asthma”, and “Baker’s Allergy” are used interchangeably to describe significant respiratory problems suffered by those who are routinely exposed to grain and flour dust. Wheezing, productive coughing, chest tightness, eye and nose irritation can present in anyone who comes in contact with these particulates. In cases of regular occupational exposure, symptoms of chronic respiratory disease are not uncommon – asthma and other lung conditions are the most worrisome.
Unfortunately, workers in bakeries and milling facilities cannot avoid exposure as eliminating the source of risk, flour itself, is not an option. But there are ways to protect personnel from the health hazards associated with flour dust. Employees must routinely wear protective equipment (such as facemasks) and clean indoor air quality (IAQ) must be maintained with vigilance. The most successful means of guaranteeing a clean air environment is by controlling particulates via source capture, extraction, and ventilation.
While employers may concentrate on employee management techniques that will help increase productivity, they may neglect to focus on a factor that will influence both worker output and health: indoor environmental quality. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) defines indoor environmental quality as the quality of a building’s environment when connected to worker health and well-being. NIOSH said this determinant of employee well-being is often influenced by air quality.
Numerous studies have connected the effects of air pollutants to worker productivity, showing impurities in the air may actually lower productivity and therefore economic growth.
Since worker productivity is often dependent on health, employees may feel less productive if air pollution is affecting their health, according to nonprofit Brookings Institution. Air impurities may have more severe effects as they could lead to more respiratory problems and a higher chance of infant mortality.
Removing Indoor Air Pollutants Increases Building Energy Efficiency
Another study published by the International Centre for Indoor Environment and Energy, Technical University of Denmark suggested indoor air quality contributes to lower productivity because building occupants may feel uncomfortable.
The study authors found getting rid of sources of air pollution, such as floor-coverings, helped improve indoor air quality. Another method used to enhance the building’s environmental quality was to supply them with clean outdoor air.
Since ventilation is a key part of worker safety and productivity, employers should focus on providing their workers with adequate ventilation to increase air circulation and reduce the number of pollutants in an indoor space.
While authors said having higher amounts of outdoor air helped, the study found building energy use is significantly impacted by various efforts to reduce pollutant levels.
“It is usually more energy-efficient to eliminate sources of pollution than to increase outdoor air supply rates,” the Denmark-based study concluded. “The experiments summarized in this article have documented and quantified relationships that can be used in making cost-benefit analyses of either solution for a given building.”
As an energy-efficient way to remove air impurities, companies should invest in air filtration systems to extract pollutants and replace them with clean air to enhance worker productivity and health. Since workers can greatly benefit from cleaner indoor air that could lead to higher output, companies may see higher revenue growth.
By Chris Zehner
Indoor air pollution and air quality news brought to you by Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc.
The energy crisis during the 1970s created a need for environmental reform. Among other topics, indoor air quality became a line item on the agenda for change. Today, workplace IAQ broadly refers to the quality of air in any place of employment. Business owners, building administrators, company management and employees all hold a responsibility in seeing that the quality of air in the place in which they conduct business is clean and contaminant-free. This is important not only for the welfare of the building occupants but for their guests and patrons, as well.
What is considered “good” IAQ? According to OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, good IAQ has the following qualities: (1)
Comfortable temperature and humidity
Proper indoor ventilation
Adequate supply of fresh outdoor air
Pollutant control from both inside and out
Most industries are diligent about providing a clean and unpolluted environment for their workers. But pollution has a way of existing without ever being seen. Here are some common causes of unclean air in the workplace: (2)
Improperly maintained HVAC systems
Presence of workplace created contaminants
Presence of external pollutants
The types of pollutants are variable and depend on the workplace and the activities produced therein. Common pollutants generally fall into one (or more) of three main categories: biological, chemical, and particulate. (3) These pollutants are caused by a myriad of job-related activities that can produce the release of fumes and vapors, particle discharge, and humidity fluctuations. In addition, faulty equipment, the growth of molds and bacteria, remodeling or restoration efforts, and all day-to-day actions of people at work further affect the environmental atmosphere. (4)
Many jobs deal with and produce toxins and particulate matter as a matter of course. Manufacturers create and come into contact with contaminants non-stop. Some of the most dangerous IAQ offenders are – but are not limited to –
Asbestos – from insulation and ceiling and floor tiles
Carbon Dioxide & Carbon Monoxide – from improperly functioning utilities and piping
Formaldehyde – and other chemical fumes from items like carpeting, particleboard and furniture
VOC’s (volatile organic compounds) – such as gases from fragrances, solvents and paints
Identifying Poor IAQ
Failure to identify potential IAQ offenders and clues of contaminated air will eventually result in health problems for the people who work inside the buildings. Recognizing symptoms is the first step in combating the problem.
Signs of illness usually start gradually. Some workers may complain about workday symptoms – like headaches or confusion – that clear up when they get home. Other indicators like fever, respiratory discomfort, and chronic cough may linger and be indicative of a more serious problem. But the symptoms related to dirty air are variable and depend on the health of the worker, the contaminant they are in contact with and the amount of time spent with said pollutant.
Knowledge is power for the American worker and having all the facts is required to maintain a clean indoor environment. Federal organizations such as OSHA and the National Institute for Occupational Safety & Health (a division of the CDC) exist for the sole purpose of educating the workforce about occupational hazards and for creating and implementing standards to keep workers safe while doing their jobs. To that end, both organizations recommend a proactive approach to addressing indoor environmental concerns. Failure to act quickly when IAQ problems present themselves, can lead to additional and potentially more serious problems.
At AIR Systems Inc, we serve our customers by providing indoor air quality management solutions in addition to our stellar air cleaning products. Call us today for a free air quality assessment with one of our skilled and experienced indoor environmental specialists. (5)
2020 has been a year of significant events in America. Our president was impeached. The stock market crashed. Wildfires ravaged parts of the west coast and murder hornets wreaked havoc on honeybee colonies. Civil rights protests continue alongside legal challenges to the results of our national election. And of course, COVID.
Of these trials, none have been more life-changing than Covid-19. The statistics are staggering:
Infections, Global: 77,557,000+ Deaths 1,707,000+
Infections, U.S.: 18,058,000+ Deaths 320,000+ (as of 12/23/20) (1)
At various locations around the country, stay-at-home orders and other restrictions on citizens, businesses, and schools are in place due to the highly transmissible nature of this deadly virus. But some workers are expected to work, even during a pandemic. For example, medical personnel, essential office support, and health and wellness employees must be present while their businesses are open. In many areas, students and teachers need to be on school grounds or they risk loss-of-income or instruction. And patients need treatment.
Researchers know that the novel coronavirus is spread through droplets released into the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes. The droplets generally do not travel more than a few feet, and they fall to the ground (or onto surfaces) in a few seconds — this is why physical distancing, staying outdoors, and wearing face coverings are effective in preventing the spread.
Unfortunately, airflow is limited while indoors, and physical distancing is often not possible. And while the virus picks no favorites in whom it afflicts, some occupations are at higher risk than others, simply by the nature of what they do or the buildings they occupy.
Here is an overview of just some of the businesses we have supported during this past year and why they are vulnerable.
Hospitals & Medical Centers
For centuries, hospitals have worn the mantle of medical care for patients. But their mission to safeguard human life has been severely tested during the coronavirus outbreak as medical facilities are also places where pathogens can linger and spread.
The need for additional measures of protection have never been more important.
Patients and healthcare workers alike benefit from existing healthcare practices such as personal protective equipment and environmental control. But for the most aggressive infectious diseases, like Covid-19, additional measures such as portable air cleaners and negative pressure HEPA machines for patient isolation will make the difference between potentially lethal illness and health. (10)
College Housing & Common Areas
The U.S. Department of Education lists more than 4,000 academic institutions of higher learning (2) at which nearly 20 million students attend.
In addition to students, at every one of these schools there are hundreds – in some cases thousands – of workers, many of whom commute from other areas, widening the scope of transmissibility. And an alarming number of them are getting sick. With barely a month back at school, there were more than 40,000 cases of Covid-19 reported from campuses across all 50 states. (2a). That was in September. The numbers have more than doubled since that time.
Containing the spread of viruses and other illnesses has always been a challenge on college campuses. Think how colds and flu thrive there – classrooms, residential housing, cafeterias – all of these locations are enclosed spaces that tend to be crowded, often with poor ventilation. Add to that the very nature of college social life – dorm and fraternity parties, clubs and team sporting events, college bars – plus the diminished judgment of many younger people, and germ-sharing becomes communal. Students living in residential housing are particularly vulnerable.
The greatest risk of transmission is through aerosolization such as a cough or a sneeze. But in dental offices, germs can also spread during routine procedures and oral surgeries that generate their own aerosols. (3)
Dental aerosols are defined as the splatters, mists, and droplets created from the use of certain dental instruments. These fine sprays and particles include saliva, blood, plaque, and oral debris and can travel distances up to 20 feet. The use of high-speed equipment such as scalers and drills allow pathogens the opportunity to spread rapidly (3a), particularly during surgeries where oral emissions enter the breathing space of dental workers.
Fitness Centers & Locker Rooms
Pre-Covid, the most common thing athletes, coaches, and sports teams worried about in terms of clean air in their locker rooms was primarily focused on odor control. Then there was MRSA.
For nearly a decade, bacterial staph in the form of MRSA (4) plagued athletes from high school all the way up to the pros. But now, coronavirus (4a) poses an even greater threat. For athletic departments and professional sports teams across the nation, maintaining good health presents considerable challenges – ones that professional teams and athletic departments are now trying to conquer.
Presently, there are over 51 million Americans 65 and older in the United States in contrast to the over-195 million adults under age 65. And yet, older Americans make up 55% of all adults at-risk for serious complications if infected with Covid-19. As of December 1st, more than 100,000 US deaths from Covid-19 were linked to 28,000 senior care institutions. (5) While only 5% of the country’s cases have occurred in these types of facilities, nursing home residents represent 38% of Covid-19 deaths. Simply put, if you are an adult over the age of 65 and live in a nursing home or long-term care facility, your chance of becoming infected by Covid-19 and then dying from it, are higher than any other group in the country. Why are these populations more at risk?
Nursing homes – like many medical institutions – have long been breeding grounds for communicable diseases. Consider the communal nature of elder-care facilities. There is frequent physical contact between patients and staff, residents often share rooms, and many of them are shuttled back and forth between hospitals and doctor’s offices where germs run rampant. (5a) And while coronavirus is blind to age per se, it feeds on those with weak or compromised health profiles.
Office environments, like any place where people from different households gather, are potential breeding grounds for germs. Office employees spend the majority of their waking hours during the week inside, sharing space with others. This creates an atmosphere ripe for germ-sharing. Consider the seasonal flu. As we all know, year after year, every American becomes a potential vector for the infection, every surface, a possible hot spot for transmission. If even one doorknob or computer keyboard has a transmissible bug, a virus can infect nearly everyone in that workspace in a matter of hours.
Common areas like meeting and break rooms, waiting areas, and exit and entryways (6) are examples of places where germ transmission is more likely and where social distancing needs to be enforced.
Poor indoor air quality in schools has been known to hamper student wellness even before Covid. In addition to communicable infections, pollutants such as molds, dusts, and fumes can negatively impact a student’s wellness, ability to concentrate, and classroom performance. (7)
Schools are vulnerable for a variety of reasons (7a). Schools tend to have more people crowded in smaller spaces and children, even those who are young adults, are inclined to pack together tightly, with little to no thought given to personal space. Think: cafeterias at lunchtime and indoor spectator events viewed from bleachers. Think: crowded hallways and stairwells in between classes. Lastly, minors are more likely to cough and breathe in direct proximity to others and share food, drinks, and personal items.
Spas & Salons
Indoor Air Quality in spa and beauty salons has been a concern since the dawn of their opening. For hair shops, cancer-causing formaldehyde was enemy number one due to the toxic fumes emitted from perms, dyes, and hair-straightening treatments. (8a) For nail salons, it was the VOCs (volatile organic compounds) present in lacquers, adhesives, and polish removers that presented the most serious occupational health risk. (8) While those problems still exist, Covid-19 has become the greater concern.
The spread of infection in spas and salons is heightened because these types of businesses are often smaller, tighter spaces making social distancing difficult. Every spa table, sink, chair, and surface are possible hot spots for transmission. If even one hairbrush or cabinet knob has a communicable microbe, a virus can infect nearly everyone in that shop or salon days before someone shows symptoms.
What To Do
Obviously, cleaning and disinfecting are crucial. But COVID-19 transmission is more common by way of airborne respiratory droplets, meaning that the biggest risk of viral spread comes from sick people, not from objects. Staying at home is the best way to avoid contact. But millions of workers, students, and medical patients need to leave their homes. How can one be sure that they are positioned for wellness rather than illness? The answer is clean air.
CDC recommended control measures for improving indoor air quality indicate that “elimination” is the most effective means of reducing transmission of Covid-19 and advocates the use of portable high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) cleaners as an additional means of reducing viral spread.
Air cleaners with HEPA filtration are designed to draw in polluted air and filter out the impurities. Quality air cleaning and filtration units are proven to reduce airborne contaminants, including particles containing viruses. Portable air cleaners (also known as air purifiers) may be particularly helpful. By itself, air cleaning or filtration is not enough to protect people from exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. But when used alongside other control methods recommended by the CDC, air filtration can be an effective means of avoiding the spread of illness.
Our air cleaning and purification products not only remove fumes and odors from the source but when paired with our HEPA filtration systems, also remove up to 99.99% of fine particulates floating in the air – keeping both workers and customers breathing clean air and feeling secure. Contact us today for a free estimate with one of our clean air specialists.
What this means for businesses regarding indoor air quality
On January 21, 2021, a Presidential Executive Order was signed regarding the policy of ensuring the health and safety of American workers amid the Covid-19 pandemic. (1)
Before this order was issued, OSHA developed a Covid-19 planning guide (2) to help businesses identify workplace risk levels and determine what measures were appropriate to implement.
The order states that the Federal government should take swift action to reduce Covid-19 transmission risk in the workplace. Section 2 of the order specifies that under the OSHA Act, revised guidelines will be given to employers and that coordination with state governments will be executed so as to ensure adequate protection against Covid-19 for all workers.
Specifically, the EO orders OSHA to:
1. Issue revised guidelines to employers regarding Covid-19 worker safety measures. Note: this is NOT a directive for OSHA to issue emergency temporary standards. 2. Consider whether new – but temporary – mask wearing requirements are needed. 3. Review OSHA enforcement efforts. 4. Launch a national program related to Covid-19 violations creating occupational risk. 5. Coordinate with states that have workplace safety plans to help ensure adequate worker protection. 6. Partner with US Department of Labor’s public affairs office and OSHA regional offices to create and implement a multilingual outreach campaign.
The White House set forth this order not just to underscore the importance of following existing OSHA regulations, but to reduce – if not eliminate – workplace risk of Covid-19 transmission.
What does this mean in terms of indoor air quality? It means that anything that could negatively affect worker health and safety – in the context of this current pandemic – should be addressed and remedied. Cleaning, social distancing, and mask-wearing isn’t enough if workplace air is unhealthy. A clean and uncontaminated environment is crucial for worker wellness.
The EPA states there are three basic strategies to improving indoor air quality:
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) goes further and states that air purifiers have the potential to further reduce exposure to virus-laden aerosols and serve as a useful supplement to other protective procedures. (4)
Regardless of industry, every profession has its own challenges when it comes to indoor air quality. Fortunately, the key to providing a healthy IAQ is the same regardless of the type of business. The solution is employing air purification / filtration methods.
Here are just five examples of businesses and their specific IAQ challenges:
Primary schools, unlike personal residences, commercial buildings, and office structures, tend to have more people crowded in smaller spaces. For example, K-12 schools struggle with social distancing in congested areas such as cafeterias and classrooms (5), while colleges face challenges with areas such as student housing and lecture halls. Germ-sharing is communal at many schools. But it doesn’t need to be.
Many dentists operate out of small offices where proper ventilation may be compromised. Unhealthy air could threaten worker health every time a patient opens his mouth – which is done often and without a mask during dental procedures. The aerosols created during patient treatment are emitted into the air and linger unless airflow and ventilation are suitable. (6)
Spas, Salons, Barbershops
These types of businesses are often located in smaller, tighter spaces which can create an environment ripe for transmitting illness. Workers are unable to social distance from their clients, putting them in harm’s way if someone is sick. Air purification and constant air flow help combat viral transmission.
In any healthcare facility, the potential for communicable diseases to enter a worker’s breathing space is an ongoing risk. Even more so at nursing homes, where transmission and death rates are particularly high. While only 7% of the country’s cases have occurred in nursing homes, residents there represent 40% of all US Covid-19 deaths. (7)
Gyms, Health Clubs, Sports Facilities
Indoor places where heavy breathing and sweating regularly occur require extra attention. (8) When people are outside, droplets from exhalations, coughing, and sneezing are dispersed into the air more quickly. But indoors, viral spray can linger, increasing the potential for transmission. What Can Businesses Do to Improve IAQ?
Portable HEPA Filtration
Before new guidelines are issued and officially in place, businesses of all types can safeguard worker health by reducing the threat of viral transmission. In addition to social distancing, mask-wearing, and cleaning and disinfecting, establishments – wherever space and funding will allow it – can add portable HEPA filtration systems to their virus-combating arsenal.
The reason why air cleaners with HEPA filtration are powerful tools against viral transmission is that they are designed to draw in polluted air and filter out impurities. Quality air cleaning and filtration units are proven to reduce airborne contaminants, including particles containing viruses. Portable air cleaners (also known as air purifiers) may be particularly helpful. Used exclusively, air cleaning and filtration are not enough to protect people from exposure to the virus that causes COVID-19. But when used alongside other control methods recommended by the CDC, air filtration can be an effective way to reduce Covid-19 transmission rates.
Our portable HEPA filter air cleaning systems come in three different models, the filtration and recirculation capabilities ranging in room sizes as small as your typical classroom to multi-use areas up to 1200 sq. ft.
To find out more about our air purifying systems – such as our 987-AMB-HEPA model – contact Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc. to speak to one of our clean air specialists.
What do woodworkers, artists, dentists, nail technicians, and welders all have in common? Yes, they work with their hands. But that is not all. Those who work in these professions all produce indoor air emissions by just going about their daily duties.
Artists who paint or make pottery may breathe in fumes or particulate matter, as well as many dentists when they use laughing gas or drill teeth to fill cavities. Woodworkers can inhale particle dust; nail techs vapors from glues and polishes. Welders heat up the metal that can emit noxious fumes into the air. The list of jobs, professions, and tasks performed that can create indoor air quality problems goes on and on.
As most business owners know, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) requires employers to comply with standards created under it. It requires that employers be reasonably aware of the possible sources of poor air quality and that they should have the resources necessary to recognize and control potential hazards.
Most business owners take seriously this responsibility for creating a safe and healthy workplace. They uphold OSHA compliance by keeping their factories, studios, and manufacturing floors clean by maintaining their machines and equipment. But to truly protect their employees from the risk of illness and other hazards, the indoor air quality must be free of pollutants or all their other efforts will fall short of real protection.
The bottom line? Airborne pollutants create a poor IAQ. Experts agree that in most cases, the most effective way to keep the air clean and healthy is to eliminate pollution at the source. This proven method of indoor air cleaning is known as source capture.
At its most basic, source capture may be defined as the process of removing gas, smoke, fumes, and particles where emissions originate.
This process prevents pollutants from dispersing into the surrounding air, the effects of which can cause worker illness, risk of fire and explosion, and an unclean indoor environment.
The top three benefits to source capture are:
Improved worker health
Enhanced productivity & worker retention
Reduced operating costs
Source capture ventilation equipment is less expensive to purchase, run, and maintain than large area (ambient) cleaning methods.
Reduced energy costs
Source capture ventilation products are smaller, thus using less energy than ambient systems.
There are several types of source control products used in the industry. The most common include:
Extraction Arm systems
Bench-Top and Wall Mount Fume Extractors
Mobile Fume Extractors
These systems isolate contaminants and remove them from a worker’s breathing space.
In addition to the professions and applications mentioned at the outset of this article, any trade or occupation that involves cutting, mixing, or burning, or deals with chemicals or substances that emit fumes, mists, or vapors, are also effectively handled by source capture ventilation systems.
The type of source capture ventilation product that is right for a given job and task will depend on a variety of factors including the application and the building infrastructure. At Air Impurities Removal Systems, Inc. we provide source capture air cleaning systems for our customers. We have numerous options to choose from, such as our SP-800 mobile fume extractor, our S-981-2B bench-top fume extractor, and our model SCDD-3450 downdraft table. For more information, contact us for your free estimate with one of our clean air experts.