Many factors can contribute to poor indoor air quality in the workplace and in turn, this can affect the health and well-being of workers.
Some airborne irritants can prompt respiratory distress. If you have developed asthma, your condition may have been caused by poor indoor air quality.
You may have had allergies that caused you to sneeze and have watery eyes, but you may not realize that you have asthma at first. Depending on the conditions in which you work, it may develop over time. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, wheezing and chest tightness. Asthma can be treated, but it could become a health issue that lasts a lifetime.
OSHA does not have standards related to IAQ directly, but it does have standards about air contaminants and indoor ventilation, which employers are expected to meet. This falls under the General Duty Clause of the OSH Act, which requires employers to provide employees with a safe working environment. In fact, the federal agency covers safety issues that are not specifically addressed by the Minnesota Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Factors that affect indoor air quality include:
- Poor ventilation
- High or low humidity
- Problems controlling temperature
- Recent remodeling work
Addressing the problem
Poor indoor air quality exists in many locations, but workers can develop asthma in a variety of environments; for example, paper mills, mining operations, chemical plants, gas stations or construction sites. Office workers are also at risk, along with people who work at airports or for airlines. Proper ventilation and building care will often be sufficient to fix the problem of poor IAQ, but that may be too late to help people who are already afflicted with asthma. An experienced attorney will tell you that in terms of workers compensation claims, both those who have been newly diagnosed and those who have developed latent symptoms may be eligible for benefits.