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Workplace Air Quality Monitoring

workplace air quality monitoring

Top 7 Workplace must-have Air Quality Monitoring

It is all about conscious breathing that heightens awareness and deepens relaxation as breath is the link between our mind and body. Breathing good quality air is the secret to keep our mind and body active with full of energy and to derive maximum productivity physically and mentally.

For the best quality of life, the air that we breathe must be the purest as possible because air nourishes with oxygen to the lungs, the blood and consequently, the rest of the organs. If so, Workplace air quality monitoring is crucial for employers to provide healthy air quality at workplaces to get quality work results from workforces.

 

Why Workplace air quality monitoring is important for Industry?

65% of global workforces spend more than 8 hours a day, 5 days a week in indoor workplaces rather than outdoors. As the medical research proves that quality air leads to better productivity, monitoring the air circulation and quality conditions at workplace becomes the foremost responsibility of any business in designing the workplace. Health and productivity can take a hit in a workplace with poor air quality since the indoor air in the United States is two to five times more polluted than outdoor air according to the report published by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Indoor air quality (IAQ) is defined by the depiction of concentrations of pollutants and thermal conditions that may positively or negatively affect the health, comfort and performance of the employees. It is very evident that Indoor air quality (IAQ) is essential for a healthy office environment.

Indoor air quality is measured by the concentrations of Particulate Matter (PM), Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Carbon Monoxide (CO), Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2), Ozone (O3) and other Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) in the air, many of which are carcinogens at high concentrations.

Few factors which constitute in poor IAQ are:

  1. Conserving energy has become the primary goal of many industries in recent years which results in warmer, tighter buildings with much-reduced air exchange and therefore a greater propensity for indoor pollutants to build up.
  2. Reduced ventilation rates due to high rise buildings and the use of various indoor equipment resulting in warmer and more humid indoor environment.
  3. Greater use of chemicals and the diversity of construction materials.
  4. Furnishings and consumer products resulting in a concentration of wide range of pollutants which is greater in indoors than that in outdoors.

Indoor air quality (IAQ) impacts the health, productivity and wellbeing of the employees. According to the recent research conducted by Harvard School of Public Health double-blind study showed high CO2 and volatile organic compound levels (found in most conventional buildings) have direct negative impacts on thinking and decision making (cognitive ability) – which was published on the website 75F.  More information available here. Poor air quality at a workplace can cause more profound symptoms like allergic reactions, eye and throat irritation, headaches, physical fatigue etc.

Financially speaking, poor IAQ can be burden to an organization. Because of various health problems like sinus infections, respiratory problems, various allergies because of indoor pollutants, can lead to higher levels of absenteeism. Furthermore, there can be huge losses to the company on the health insurances provided to the employees.

When the whole world is fighting against coronavirus, it is a big challenge to many industrial and commercial buildings that face indoor air quality issues during the COVID pandemic. It is even more important to understand IAQ principles and practices and the impacts they can have on an individual’s health. The World Health Organization (WHO) said airborne transmission of the coronavirus is possible indoors, especially when people spend extended periods in crowded and poorly ventilated rooms – which was published recently in Times of India post.

Hence, monitoring the workplace air quality monitoring in any organization and designing the work environment to keep good IAQ should become the primary responsibility of any business unit to provide a healthier and safer work environment for the employees. Let us see top 7 workplaces which need Air Quality Monitoring System.

 

Top 7 workplaces which require Air Quality Monitoring System

Manufacturing industries:

The manufacturing industry is one kind that makes products from raw materials using machines and labour.  Due to the nature of manufacturing processes, the amount of dust and fumes generated during production can result in the release of impurities in the air at the workplace. Exposure to these impurities can be hazardous to the workers leading to poor indoor air quality (IAQ).

Factors that result in poor indoor air quality in any manufacturing unit are:

  1. Increase in indoor pollutants due to airborne particles, combustibles, nanotechnology, hazardous waste, aerosols etc.
  2. Chemical fumes caused due to paints, welding, cutting, drilling etc in some specialized manufacturing industries.
  3. Dust due to improper cleaning.
  4. Dust particles being microbial in size, not visible to naked eyes can remain suspended in the air for a long time and can easily enter the HVAC systems. This contaminated air gets distributed to the surroundings.

Symptoms of poor IAQ – Respiratory problems like asthma, sinus congestion causing cold, cough and sneezing, nausea and dizziness, skin irritation or allergies, headache etc.,

Therefore, monitoring indoor air quality (IAQ) is deemed important at the present time. A real-time IAQ monitoring system keeps people alert to any pollution that might be present in an indoor environment right as it happens. Maintaining a healthy workplace with a good IAQ Monitoring System with good sensors can improve employee well-being, retention and productivity.

Food Processing:

The food processing industry is one of the largest industries in the world ranking fifth in terms of production, consumption and exports. The key segments of the Food Processing industry are Fruits & Vegetables, Dairy, Food retail, Poultry & Meat processing, Fisheries etc. Food processing also includes some basic processing like drying, grinding and milling, hulling and shelling.

Factors that result in poor indoor air quality in food processing industries are:

  1. Release of process dust from materials, chemicals or ingredients used in the production process such as flour, sugar and pharmaceuticals contaminating the surrounding air.
  2. Various processing operations such as chopping, peeling, dicing, mixing etc generate aerosols increasing the risk of contamination.
  3. Extrusion of plastics and metals, bagging, packing, weighing and transporting powdered materials producing tiny particles like “fumes” or “smoke.”
  4. Some food items attract viruses and bacteria if they are not properly stored or covered.
  5. The odours of food processing may not be pleasant.

Few symptoms of poor IAQ can be cold, cough, respiratory illness, fever, nausea, skin and eye irritations etc. Poor IAQ in food processing industries affects the health of the workers, their productivity, cognitive abilities etc.

To avoid such situations in food processing industries, maintaining relative humidity, air pressure, indoor temperatures, pollutant concentration etc becomes crucial to minimize the effects of bacteria, virus and allergens. Hence, monitoring IAQ especially measuring the above-mentioned parameters using specific and powerful sensors integrated into IAQ monitoring systems becomes essential.

Warehouses:

The warehouse can be defined as a place or building to store goods before they are sold or further distributed. Stored goods can include any raw materials, spare parts, components, packing materials, or finished goods associated with agriculture, wholesalers, manufacturers, transport businesses, importers, exporters, customs etc.

Workers within warehouses are exposed to substantial amounts of pollutants and chemicals from the stored products making air quality a critical safety issue for the workers working in these environments.

Factors that result in poor indoor air quality within a warehouse are:

  1. Constant pick up and drop off of goods releases exhaust fumes.
  2. Poor ventilation, particularly in winter when warehouses are sealed off from the cold.
  3. Dampness and moisture due to leaks, flooding or high humidity.
  4. Chemical emissions from stored raw materials.
  5. Poor maintenance of ventilation, heating and air conditioning systems.

Carbon monoxide is the most prevalent and dangerous toxic gas within the warehouse because of diesel forklifts which are driven inside a warehouse. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a significant threat where organs like the heart and brain are largely affected. Early symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are headaches, dizziness, visual disturbance, weakness, unconsciousness, nausea, chest pain etc. Building ventilation alone cannot be relied upon to prevent CO poisoning, we need advanced equipment to detect and solve CO issues.

Since CO is a colourless, tasteless and odourless gas and is difficult for a human to sense, we need powerful CO sensors which can sense the presence of CO gas in the environment. In such cases, the Air Quality Monitoring System with powerful CO sensors can help the food processing industry maintain good IAQ.

Oil Refineries:

 Oil Refineries can be defined as an industrial process plant where crude oil is refined into useful products such as petroleum, diesel fuel, kerosene, gasoline, heating oil, liquefied petroleum gas, jet fuel etc. Oil refineries are typically large, rambling building structures with extensive piping running between large chemical processing units called distillation columns carrying large streams of fluids.

Workers at the oil refineries are exposed to toxic fumes like sulphur dioxide and hydrogen sulphide. There are many other factors that pollutes the indoor air affecting the health of the workers in oil refineries.

Factors that result in poor indoor air quality in oil refineries are:

  1. Oil refineries generate different air contaminants such as particulate matter (PM1.5, PM2.5), Total Volatile Organic Compound (TVOC), and carbon monoxide (CO).
  2. Toxic fumes released during welding, cutting or brazing increases in confined spaces if there is no proper ventilation around.
  3. Chemical parameters released during the various process like Respirable Suspended Particulates (RSP), Formaldehyde (HCHO), Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and physical parameters like temperature (T), relative humidity (RH) and air velocity (AV) constitutes to poor IAQ in the refinery industry.

To protect the workers from these hazardous gases which affect the health of the workers, a suitable Air Quality Monitoring system inbuilt with high-quality sensors which can sense PM, TVOC, CO2, CO, temperature, humidity etc needs to be deployed to constantly monitor the indoor air quality in these refineries.

Wastage Management:

 Waste Management is the process of managing the waste from its beginning to its final disposal. This includes collection, transportation, treatment and disposal of waste along with waste monitoring and waste regulation.

Workers at the waste disposals are exposed to various wastes such as chemical wastes, food wastes, biological wastes, industrial wastes, plastic wastes, hospital wastes etc.

Factors that result in poor indoor air quality in oil refineries are:

  1. Some wastes may not be stored or disposed well resulting in hazardous gas emissions like CO, NO2, methane, VOC etc.
  2. Some wastes not segregated properly pollutes the surrounding air.
  3. The containers used for dumping the wastes may not be cleaned well on regular basis or not closed properly which adds germs, vermin and bacteria growth affecting the people working in the waste management.
  4. Use of pesticides can be harmful to the workers.

These poisonous gases pose threat to worker’s health conditions like headaches, eye irritation, allergies and influenza, coughing, asthma, sneezing, dizziness, nausea etc.

Proper Indoor Air Quality Systems with sensors to measure CO2 levels, VOCs, NO2 levels, CO, indoor air temperature, pressure and humidity promotes good indoor air quality (IAQ) which decreases the need for pesticides and controls odours, contaminants and vermin. This helps maintain a healthy environment for the workers.

Hospitals

 A hospital is a health care institution that provides patient treatment with specialized medical and nursing staff with advanced medical equipment. Staff for these organizations is comprised of doctors, nurses, administration, maintenance, housekeeping etc.

Patients visit the hospital because of various health concerns such as infections, accidents, wounds, viruses and other diseases.

Factors resulting in poor indoor air quality in hospitals are:

  1. Patient coughing introduces contaminants into the air and to adjacent surfaces.
  2. Bodily fluids as a result of wounds, infections and other reasons can be transferred from the patient to clothing, bedding and other surfaces and can introduce objectionable odors into the air.
  3. Carting trash and other waste products can be a source of particulate matter (PM) contaminates air if the waste is not covered properly.
  4. The chemicals used for cleaning and disinfecting can introduce objectionable odors into the indoor environment.
  5. The ductwork used to distribute air throughout the facility can become dirty over time and trap various contaminants such as dirt, dust and even biological organisms.

Since facility staff is typically in immediate contact with all these contaminants, protecting them from these contaminants and providing a cleaner and better work environment should be the main concern for any Hospital Management authority. Air quality at hospitals needs special precautions during design and maintenance to prevent infections from spreading. Specially designed sensors capable of sensing the air pollutants, poisonous gases, temperature etc. needs to be deployed by the Hospital Management.

IT Organization

 IT Organization is the department within a company that takes care of Information Technology Systems and services.

Occupants in an IT organization are close together with tightly packed cabins having approximately three to four times as many occupants in a normal building for the same amount of floor space. IAQ problems in IT Companies maybe even more serious in these cases because of higher occupant density and insufficient outside air supply because most of the companies are equipped with centralised AC.  This increases the CO2 concentration, along with humidity in the room which adversely affects employee health.

Few sources leading to bad IAQ are:

  1. Tightness of the buildings for the sake of thermal insulation causes Volatile organic components, formaldehyde and other toxic gases.
  2. Breathing produces CO2 that pollutes the air.
  3. Human factors such as perfumes, bacteria, intestinal gas and other viruses produced by sneezing or dead skin, hair loss that contribute to the dust present in the air.
  4. Markers for boards, paper, photocopiers, and printers produce many volatile components.
  5. Cleaning agents contain organic acids, preservatives, solvents (glycols, isopropanol), disinfectants (aldehydes), perfumes etc. can contaminate indoor air.

Hence, an increase in CO2, VOCs, temperature, pressure, air pollutants, humidity, harmful gases etc can cause feelings of discomfort such as fatigue, headaches, loss of concentration etc. Hence, the work productivity of employees lowers.

According to a study conducted by William Fist, head of the Indoor Environmental Department at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, which was published by MacroAir on their website https://macroairfans.com/blog/how-air-movement-affects-indoor-air-quality-in-warehouses/  the estimated annual economic costs of common respiratory illnesses are the following:

  1. 180 million lost workdays
  2. 120 million additional days of restricted activity
  3. $36 billion ($140 per person) in health care costs
  4. $70 billion ($270 per person) total cost

To improve the quality of indoor air, a specific solution composed of dedicated sensors can be deployed at the work environment to measure the quality of indoor air.

We need some technology that can connect these sensors to a system to monitor air quality. Let us see below how the Internet of Things (IoT) can be the solution for Air Quality Monitoring.

IoT based Air Quality Monitoring

 Internet of Things (IoT) in simple terms is defined as a network of “things” connected to the internet. Basically, IoT is a system of interrelated, interconnected sensors and devices able to collect data, store and transfer the sensor data over wireless networks without human intervention.

IoT-based air quality monitoring system is designed to determine the air quality conditions of any industrial area. The system will monitor the air quality using sensors to see the levels of several substances in the air including CO, CO2, O3, SO2 and particulate matter. It can also measure real-time temperature, pressure and humidity. The sensor data collected is transmitted to the cloud for analysis. The analyzed data is shared to the user through the platform connected to it.

How Fogwing Eco System Helps Air Quality Monitoring?

 Fogwing Eco device is used to measure the quality of indoor air, composed of dedicated sensors, with prebuilt SaaS solution connected through any type of communication network (cellular or Wi-Fi) to web and mobile application. This solution allows:

  1. Real-time monitoring of temperature, relative humidity, total volatile organic compound (TVOC), CO2 levels, CO and NO2 levels, measured in in any industrial location.
  2. Fogwing Eco connects to the sensors, collects the sensor data, stores the data in the cloud, analyses and automates it according to the user requirement.
  3. The consultation of historical data through data metrics (in order to understand and anticipate the future).
  4. The generation of alerts and commands when thresholds are exceeded.

Device Capability of Fogwing Eco System

Fogwing Eco is comprised of unique device capability features making the product valuable. Some of them are listed below,

  1. The device connects through any type of communication network (cellular or wi-fi).
  2. Automated switching between Cellular/Wi-Fi based on signal availability.
  3. LED indications for network and data.
  4. Just buy, plug-in and start monitoring without much guidance.
  5. The kit is available in both 5-in-1 Sensor for Indoor Air Quality Monitoring and 7-in-1 Sensor for both Indoor and Outdoor Air Pollution Monitoring to detect the air pollution and infectious pollutants in the indoor and outdoor air.
  6. Location based climate tracking to understand the climate changes in real time.

Application Capability of Fogwing Eco System

Fogwing Eco Application gives the flexibility for a user to view the data the way they want. Fogwing Eco has few Application Capability features listed below.

  1. Fogwing Eco App cloud is used to store the device data.
  2. Inbuilt periodic metrics giving options to generate reports for weekly and monthly period to file compliance reports.
  3. User friendly dashboard, giving the user flexibility to create their own dashboard to see the metrics which they really care about.
  4. Visualizations and threshold analyses helps understand the current situation and long-term trends helping the user make better and informed decisions.
  5. On-Demand Report Generation for strategic decision making.
  6. Setting air quality rules, commands and alerts.
  7. Inbuilt device health monitoring to keep track on device / sensor performance.

 Conclusion

 One of the most alarming issues in factories, industries and workplaces is the air quality level especially indoor air, where indoor air pollution has caused 120 deaths out of 100,000 per year based on a worldwide study (Published in one of the articles by Green Car Congress).

Improving IAQ has become the new normal for almost all the industries. Researches have shown that just by spending $40 per person (any kind of workplace) a year on IAQ Monitoring system in can result in a $6,500 increase in employee productivity. Hence, there is a need to install an air quality monitoring system in workplaces places to ensure that the air is not contaminated.

This can be done by installing Fogwing Eco kit. Fogwing Eco is simple, low cost, easy to use kit with IoT enabled sensors.  It collects, analyses and processes the data received from the sensors securely in order to obtain real-time monitoring of the air quality.

Change your breathing, change your life!

References:

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – https://www.buschsystems.com/resource-center/knowledgeBase/glossary/what-is-the-environmental-protection-agency-epa

75Fhttps://www.75f.io/blog/importance-of-indoor-air-quality-in-the-workplace

Times of India – https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/blogs/clean-air-world/impact-of-ventilation-on-indoor-air-quality-a-reality-check-during-the-covid-19-pandemic/

MacroAirhttps://macroairfans.com/blog/how-air-movement-affects-indoor-air-quality-in-warehouses/

Categories : Environmental, IoT Apps

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