How can you prevent unhealthy air at work?

1. Minimize sources of indoor air pollution.

The best way to guard against harm is to prevent or minimize the sources of indoor air pollution. Employers are responsible for providing safe work conditions, including healthy air.

  • Make sure your work place is 100 percent tobacco free. Learn more about smokefree air.
  • Store food properly. Dispose of garbage correctly and regularly.
  • Do not bring in products or chemicals that have strong odors or could give off harmful emissions.
  • Clean up water spills and report leaks immediately. 
  • Be aware of the hazards and safe handling procedures for materials on the job. This information must be available to you and usually is provided in Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), employer instructions and container warning labels.
  • Let your supervisor or building maintenance staff know immediately if you suspect a problem with the air indoors.

2. Make sure that the air in your office can circulate freely. 

  • Keep air vents open. Do not put papers, furniture or equipment in front of or on top of vents.
  • The building's heating, air conditioning and ventilation systems should be well designed, maintained and operated.

3. Reduce potential exposure.

Some jobs are more likely to expose people to potentially harmful substances. The most important ways of reducing potential exposure include the following steps:

  • Eliminate the use of hazardous materials.
  • If it can't be eliminated, substitute a hazardous material with a nontoxic alternative.
  • Enclose the process or containers where a chemical is being used so it never enters the air you breathe.
  • Run exhaust ventilation systems so that they function effectively.
  • Consider changes to administrative practices and housekeeping practices to minimize exposures.
  • Wear appropriate protective equipment. Comprehensive lung health protection may include respirators and other protective gear, such as gloves, aprons, goggles and face shields. If respirators are part of the gear you are given to protect yourself, be sure to wear them. 

For more information, see these guides:

OSHA – Occupational Safety and Health Administration

OSHA creates standards and regulations for workplace safety and also conducts site-inspections to assure compliance. 

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

EPA has guidance for improving air quality in large commercial buildings.

Page last updated: November 17, 2022

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