Good Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) – What Does That Mean?

Property & Casualty, Risk

Whether it is your home, office, or on the manufacturing floor, good indoor air quality (IAQ) is critical to not only maintaining a healthy work environment but also for comfort and productivity.

So, What Does Good IAQ Mean?   

Generally speaking, there are several parameters to consider for IAQ which include the following: 

  • Adequate fresh air infusion from the ventilation or HVAC system(s) 
  • Carbon dioxide (general indicator of fresh air infusion compared to number of occupants) 
  • Ambient temperature  
  • Relative humidity  
  • Carbon monoxide 
  • Moisture intrusion and control 
  • Process related chemical exposures/volatile organic compounds (VOCs) 

For office and residential-like environments, these parameters are comfort-based indicators, not necessarily health-based guidelines.  

In manufacturing and industrial environments, carbon monoxide and other process-related chemical exposures are parameters strictly focusing on safety and health. Moisture intrusion and associated corrective action are critical to minimizing damage and limiting potential health related concerns.

Nearly every company should consider having an industrial hygienist on their side. Their specialized knowledge on employee and workplace safety could save you in the long run when it comes to claims. Learn more about the benefits an industrial hygienist brings to your insurance team.

How to Maintain Good IAQ in the Winter 

  • Ensure the ventilation or HVAC systems are maintained properly on a scheduled PM program. This includes:  
    • Inspection of the systems on a scheduled basis (usually either quarterly or semi-annually) 
    • Filter change-out and replacement on a proactive basis using the highest efficiency filters the system(s) can support.  
      • Ideally for office or residential locations, this would be a filter carrying a MERV (Minimum Efficiency Rating Value) rating of 13 or higher. 
    • Maintaining adequate fresh air infusion to the occupied spaces to minimize comfort-related symptoms. This is often determined by high carbon dioxide measurements collected and or proactively by occupant load (e.g. number of people in a space). In general, maintaining carbon dioxide levels at or below 800 ppm is ideal for comfort purposes. 
    • Maintaining relative humidity levels in the 30-55% range for comfort purposes 
    • Maintaining ambient temperature levels between 69-79F, with 72F being the target range that most people consider comfortable. 
  • Carbon monoxide (CO) should be less than 9 ppm according to the National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for indoor office environments. However, detecting any concentration of CO should be cause for concern and warrant further investigation. 
  • Stopping moisture intrusion immediately and replacing moisture damaged building materials as soon as possible (e.g. drywall, insulation, carpeting, etc.). 
  • Process related chemical exposures managed through adequate engineering controls, robust administrative practices, and least preferred personal protective equipment (PPE). 

Key Takeaways:

Poor (or lack of adequate) ventilation is the major contributor of poor IAQ. The most common complaint surrounding IAQ in office environments is temperature, which, as mentioned above, has a wide range of what is considered acceptable.  

Preventative maintenance, effective communication, and swift corrective action lead to the best outcomes not only from a comfort standpoint with IAQ, but also when overexposures to hazardous chemicals are identified. 

Reach out to your M3 team to discuss your current IAQ risk management measures, or what mitigation methods can be put into place to ensure your business has great IAQ through the winter.

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