With the festive season and winter approaching, the air quality in the national capital and adjoining regions is already in the red zone. The weather department has warned that the Air Quality Index (AQI) in several cities is likely to cross the 300 level. All thanks to stubble burning in the neighbouring states of Haryana and Punjab.
Since the governments of these states are finding it tough to control the menace of stubble burning, it becomes even more crucial to take matters into our hands to minimise air pollution at places where we spend most time – office. For the uninitiated, indoor air is a lot worse than outdoor air.
In fact, the World Health Organisation itself has deemed certain indoor air pollutants as carcinogens, which means components that can cause cancer. This is precisely why HRs must look after keeping the air inside workplaces clean and safe.
To help you with air quality management, People Matters exclusively spoke to Subhashini Ponnappa, Head, HR and Admin, APAC, 75F, Dr Srikanth Sola, Director, CEO, and Co-founder of Devic Earth and Dr Sandeep Ghanta, Consultant Internal Medicine, Citizens Specialty Hospital, Hyderabad. They outlined easy and effective ways to minimise air pollution in the workplace.
What makes office air polluted?
According to Dr Sandeep Ghanta, a large number of reported health problems associated with office buildings such as asthma, stuffy or runny nose, dizziness and fatigue, is due to poor Indoor Air Quality (IAQ). He highlighted major reasons for air pollution in office buildings:
- Poorly designed or maintained ventilation systems.
- Use of the building that was poorly planned.
- Use of tobacco smoke, air fresheners, carpet, and other office furnishings.
- Improperly located outdoor air intake vents, as they can bring in the air that’s contaminated with automobile and truck exhaust and emissions.
“HRs must ensure employees comply with the office and building smoking policy. Also, don’t just rely on machines and electronic devices. Get help straight from Mother Nature and use indoor plants to absorb stale air and produce a fresh one,” advised Dr Ghanta.
Determine the ideal temperature
The indoor temperature at a workplace can be crucial in determining employee comfort and ensuring the minimisation of viral risk. While temperatures are highly volatile due to changes in workplace occupancy and weather, it is imperative that stable temperatures are maintained through a smart HVAC system that can stabilise temperature irrespective of the conditions around.
“Increasing ventilation is one of the most effective ways to improve IAQ in the workplace, and it's known to reduce viral risk significantly. In order to ensure the longevity and efficiency of the HVAC systems, it is advised that they be cleaned regularly. Filters must be switched periodically to keep dust and other air pollutants from circulating back into the room's air, as clogged filters can disrupt airflow and hasten the accumulation of pollutants in enclosed spaces,” advised Subhashini Ponnappa, who is the Head, HR and Admin, APAC, 75F – a leading IoT-based building management system company.
The higher the number of people in a room, the lower the quality of the air. Thus, monitoring the occupancy of a workplace with an effective building management system can help organisations make intelligent decisions about building efficiency. “Improving air quality can be as simple as making better use of the spaces in your buildings by tracking occupancy data,” told Subhashini Ponnappa.
She further explained, “Air quality must be monitored in real-time by facility managers. The job does not end with the implementation of measures to improve air quality because IAQ varies with the seasons, weather, temperature and light levels, etc. In order to stay on top of it, there is a need to continuously study the data and deploy solutions judiciously.”
Monitor your air quality
Day-to-day activities introduce PM pollutants into the indoor air and make it essential to be measured using air quality monitoring systems. “Reduced usage of commonly used products such as inkjet printers, incense sticks, and room fresheners, can improve indoor air quality,” said Dr Srikanth Sola, Director, CEO, and Co-founder of Devic Earth. It is a disruptive clean-tech company that creates scalable solutions to control air pollution.
“The effects of this can reflect in our health after a certain period. Monitoring air quality not only increases awareness about the air we breathe but also helps us find solutions to mitigate it,” he added.
Use air-cleaning devices
Having equipment in your disposition is a great way to keep your IAQ at reasonable levels and prevent the need to hire professionals. “An air purifier helps remove or dilute indoor airborne pollutants. This reduces the level of contaminants and improves indoor air quality (IAQ). HRs must be in contact with the building managers and keep the building's health in check, which is another way to ensure the management of indoor air quality in workspaces,” told Dr Srikanth Sola.
Taking these simple precautions can help boost air quality in your office and improve your health.