Steps to prevent indoor air quality issues
If you notice an odor, check with occupants in nearby rooms and floors to determine if the problem is throughout the building or specific to your workspace. Ask if they are conducting any activities or know of any activities that might create a similar odor.
Use only as recommended on the label. Be aware that some products, such as those with citrus odors, can cause allergies in some people. Whenever possible, use cleaning products without added fragrances.
When temperatures exceed 80 °F indoors, unit supervisors or administrators should evaluate when and how to alter work practices, if needed. Units should consider the type of work, the local working conditions, and an individual’s personal response to the heat. Supervisors are encouraged to be as flexible as possible, in alignment with the unit’s business needs, in allowing personnel to either take appropriate leave, to allow telework or relocation to a setting with cooling capabilities, and/or make work schedule adjustments as appropriate to avoid periods of excessive heat.
We encourage UW personnel to:
- Dress for the weather - while keeping safety in mind. For example, no shorts or sandals in labs or around hazardous materials.
- Drink water frequently.
- Take more frequent breaks in cooler areas.
- Use fans and open windows (if temperatures are cooler outdoors) in buildings that do not have central air conditioning.
- Place containers of ice in front of fans.
- Use adequately sized portable air conditioning units to cool rooms.
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) guidelines for indoor temperature control and indoor air quality parameters are referenced for best practices at the University as federal and state agencies do not regulate temperature for indoor workers at this time.
For those working outdoors for 15 minutes or longer, refer to the EH&S Outdoor Heat Exposure webpage for guidance on complying with the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries worker safety requirements for protection against excessive heat. For additional guidance on high outdoor temperatures, please review this news post.
Refer to Heat Wave Safety webpage from the American Red Cross and the Extreme Heat Prevention Guide.
If you have an upcoming remodel of your space you can look for “green” or low emission (low VOC) paint, carpet, and furniture. See EPA’s Indoor airPLUS for more information.
If your activities produce an odor, take action to control them. Turn on the kitchen fan or exhaust ventilation, or use the product in a fume hood. Prohibit odors from traveling to nearby spaces by closing the door and opening a window. Inform others in the area about your activities.
These can aggravate allergies in some individuals – so use them sparingly as it may cause an adverse reaction in your neighbors.
Frequently, foul odors are from rotten food, so check your space to ensure there isn’t any in drawers, cabinets, and lunch bags. Ensure trash and compost are removed regularly.
Infrequent use of drains can lead to the traps drying out which allows sewer gases to enter the room. To prevent the emanation of drain odors it is recommended that water is poured down the drain at least every two weeks. Make sure you locate the drains under refrigerators and other equipment or furniture. If a fixture is no longer in use, contact Facilities Services to request it be removed from service and capped. Maintain floor drains for proper flow to avoid fluid backup into work areas.
When products having volatile chemicals or strong odors are used, provide as much ventilation as feasible and schedule work when the building is minimally occupied.