Monitoring indoor air quality is a constant for many warehouse facilities, and maintaining safe, clean air can be a challenge for some, depending on the industry. From the equipment used inside to the age of the heating system and integrity of the structure, here's what to watch for when it comes to air quality and what to do if you spot a problem.
What Causes Poor Air Quality in a Warehouse?
Several factors come together to contribute to the air quality in a typical warehouse, according to OSHA. Contributing factors range from poor ventilation to the chemicals used in packaging and preserving items and even the type of equipment used. Some of the largest culprits are needed to properly store and move items to fulfill orders and create shipments, so balancing safety and air quality with efficiency and productivity is a must for most businesses.
Common Warehouse IAQ Issues and Causes:
- Industrial chemicals: used in production, packaging and storage of goods
- Fumes emitted from delivery vehicles and forklifts
- Carbon monoxide
- Lack of masks or protective gear
- Cleaning supplies
- Improper storage and use of chemicals
- Poor ventilation
- Mold or condensation
Improving your workplace indoor air quality will help your workers stay healthy and well; it will also prevent common accidents and injury on site and ensure that your warehouse remains compliant with OSHA and environmental regulations.
How Can You Tell If Your Facility Has Poor Air Quality?
According to OSHA, there is no single test that will determine if your workplace is struggling with poor air quality, but there are signs to watch for that could indicate you have a problem. Leaks, moisture, or musty odors are always a bad sign, as is the presence of rodents or pest droppings, which directly impact the quality of your warehouse's air. Other issues include a faulty HVAC system and visible signs of dust or particles in the air and on surfaces. In most cases, the presence of one or more of these signs means you should take steps to have your facility inspected—and schedule a thorough cleaning.
The age of your building can also play a role in air quality. Outdated HVAC and ventilation systems, old fans, and years’ worth of accumulation of grime, dust, chemicals, and more adds up. Updating outdated ventilation and air conditioning/heating can help eliminate the risk of bad IAQ in your workplace.
How to Improve Air Quality in Your Warehouse
Simply becoming aware of the potential triggers for poor air quality and ensuing your facility is up to date and regularly maintained can help prevent many of the problems associated with poor air quality. While the proper actions will depend on your facility and what you store there, consider taking some of the following steps to begin:
Replace gas or diesel forklifts
Older forklifts are often still in operation, but when they are used indoors in an enclosed space, your team could be exposed to a variety of gases and fumes. Replacing these outdated pieces will not only improve air quality, it will also boost efficiency as well.
Repair or replace old HVAC
They pump air throughout your building to keep things cool, but what else is circulating through your warehouse? Spores, mold, fumes, and chemicals can be spread throughout your warehouse if you do not have a clean, up-to-date system with the right kind of filter.
You have a fire alarm, but a carbon monoxide alarm can prevent this dangerous gas from harming your team. Other monitors and alarms can also detect harmful gases and chemicals and allow you to take prompt action.
From outright leaks to areas that never seem to dry, moisture increases the risk of mold and poor air quality; remediation may be required if your warehouse has standing water, wet areas, or roof sections that leak when it rains.
Supply safety equipment
Individual respirators and masks can protect your workers while they are handling known hazards; these can also be used daily if you suspect a problem or want to be sure your team is safe.
By learning more about indoor air quality and taking steps to identify the most common issues, you can protect your workers and ensure that your business remains compliant with important safety regulations.