Indoor Air Quality Concern Response Procedure

Value Statement

The University of Vermont places a high priority on the health and comfort of its employees in the workplace. We recognize that concerns and perceptions about the workplace environment can severely degrade employee productivity and effectiveness. The University has the goal of providing workspaces where as many people as possible can work at their highest levels with the greatest amount of flexibility possible. This goal is balanced against the physical and engineering constraints of the spaces in which we work.

An important component of this commitment is clear communication between building occupants, the Physical Plant Department and the Risk Management Department about any concerns occupants have regarding the quality of their workspace. The purpose of this document is to help make the communication as effective as possible.

Policy

The Physical Plant Department and Risk Management Department's Environmental Safety Facility (ESF) staff will jointly work with University faculty and staff and their supervisors to resolve Indoor Air Quality complaints as quickly as possible.

Background

Indoor air quality is a critical factor in employee health, comfort and productivity. It is influenced by many factors, including the quality of the outside air, the operations in the workspace itself, maintenance of the ventilation system, and operation of the heating and cooling system. When concerns arise about Indoor Air Quality, each of of these factors must be investigated in order to determine the cause of the problem.

When the problem is an odor, the response of the ESF staff will be to attempt to track down the source and stop the activity creating the odor. Sometimes, the odor results from required maintenance activities. In these cases, the ESF staff will help the occupants and the people performing the activities determine the severity of the problem and possible alternatives in managing it.

When the problem includes health symptoms noticed in the workplace, ESF staff will attempt to determine if the building's ventilation system is operating as designed and whether the design is appropriate for the operations occurring in the space.

If there is evidence of either biological or chemical contamination of the space, ESF staff will assist in determining the nature and amount of the contamination. The benchmarks for comparing the level of contamination are: OSHA regulations for determining whether immediate action is required; and accepted ASHRAE standards for continuing action. Investigation and elimination of possible sources will continue until worker satisfaction has been reached or all avenues of engineering investigation have been exhausted.

Procedure

1. Upon receiving reports of concerns with workplace environments, ESF staff will visit the workplace of concern as soon as possible. The purpose of the initial visit will be to determine the nature of the complaint, find any obvious causes and solutions. These solutions may be implemented by the Physical Plant Department or by the department occupying the problem space.

If the situation is not immediately resolvable, the employees and supervisors involved will determine, in consultation with ESF staff, whether the situation is severe enough to leave the workspace. Employees who choose to leave will file a "First Report of Injury" form with the Risk Management Department in order to protect the employees' rights to workers' compensation benefits.

2. Each initial visit will be logged in the IAQ database kept at the ESF.

3. If the situation is not resolved on the first visit, and the situation persists, follow-up work will be arranged by the ESF staff according to their professional judgment. Tools in this assessment include: measuring carbon dioxide levels to determine fresh air delivery to the space, tracking temperature and relative humidity; measurement of noise levels; and detector tube measurement of chemicals which are suspected to be present at levels close to OSHA regulations. This level of testing will be paid for by the ESF operations budget.

4. If employees develop health symptoms they associate with the workspace, they will record their occurrence on the Health Symptoms Questionnaire form provided by ESF staff. This will assist in detecting patterns in the timing, location and severity of the problem.

5. If the initial environmental screening performed by ESF staff is unable to detect anything unusual about the workplace environment and the problems persist, outside consultants will be hired to perform more extensive environmental evaluations. These evaluations will be overseen by ESF staff, in consultation with the occupants and their supervisors. Funding of this work will be arranged between the Risk Management Department, the Physical Plant Department and the department occupying the problem space.

6. If the health symptoms worsen or persist more than a month, the University's occupational health physician will be asked to review the situation and make recommendations for further environmental testing.

Questions about this procedure should be sent to Ralph Stuart at the Environmental Safety Facility, 656-5400, rstuart@esf.uvm.edu