Indoor Air Quality

Montana Department of Labor & Industry

Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air quality (IAQ) refers to the quality of air in non-industrial workplaces, such as office buildings, governmental institutions, libraries, and schools. Indoor Air Quality may involve odor sensitive personnel or Mold. 

There are no OSHA standards regarding exposure to odors/fragrances or mold. Odor/fragrance sensitivity cases should be solved by your Human Resources Department and/or the Employees Physician. 

If you have mold in your workplace, the best course of action is to have it removed.  While the Department can take a complaint, it is up to your employer/building manager to have it mitigated.

What to expect from Montana Department of Labor & Industry (DLI)

The Department of Labor & Industry Safety Bureau receives many inquiries from employees and employers concerning air quality. Before contacting us, complete the steps below to assist us in helping you resolve the condition.  This flowchart will walk you through the process.

Employees:
•    Must notify their supervisor/ manager and report the condition
•    If condition is not resolved, complete the DLI online Safety Concern Form @ http://erd.dli.mt.gov/safety-health/report-workplace-safety-hazard

Employers:
•    Due to the confidentiality of medical conditions, if this is a workers compensation claim please contact your carrier for assistance.
•    Determine the ownership of the facility. If your facility is leased, the employer must work with the landlord to resolve the condition. Including hiring HVAC, plumbing and industrial hygiene contractors if necessary.
•    Complete a facility walkthrough with the Safety Officer or Safety Committee.
•    Identify any water intrusion or condensation issues and repair/ resolve them.
•    Remediate any visible mold.
•    Verify that the facility has adequate fresh air intake, 15 cfm of fresh air per occupant.
•    Verify fresh air intake vents are inspected to ensure that the facility is pulling quality fresh air and not obstructed.
•    Verify HVAC systems are properly maintained.  Quality filters are being utilized and being replaced frequently. All humidifiers are cleaned on a weekly basis.
•    Verify all HVAC vents are open and unobstructed.
•    Verify ventilation fans are operational.
•    If sewage smells are present, contact a licensed plumbing contractor to inspect roof vents and plumbing fixtures.
•    Inspect plants within the area for visible mold. Mold is commonly found on the plant, in the planting media or on the base of the pot. Additionally any humidifiers within the area shall be inspected for mold.
•    We recommend non-ionizing air purifiers if they are used.
•    Properly ventilate facilities with fresh air that have:
              - Recently been remodeled/ constructed- new flooring, furniture, paint, etc.
              - Recently had a pesticide application.

Please contact us at 406-444-6401 if you have any questions regarding the above steps. If the condition persists DLI may perform an onsite inspection of your facility.

Indoor air Quality Scenarios:

1.    I am concerned about the air quality in my office building, can the Safety Bureau test and certify the air is good? No, there is no single test that can analyze for everything and guarantee the air is “good”.  There are several causes of IAQ issues most commonly, lack of proper ventilation, moisture problems, occupant activities, and lack of building maintenance. Addressing these issues is the first approach to identification of IAQ problems.
    
2.    I work in a photo copy room and am worried about air quality. Can you help? Yes, we can review the Safety Data Sheets and the manufactures recommendations for the copy machines and make recommendations if needed.

3.    One of my employees complains that people in the office wear scented products that causes them health issues.  Can the Safety Bureau help with thatNo, OSHA does not have standards addressing fragrance sensitives in the workplace.  These are best resolved with the help of a medical provider and assistance from the human resource department regarding a fragrance free policy or reasonable accommodation.

4.    I run a shop that paints equipment and I want to be sure no one is over exposed.  Can the safety Bureau help with this? Yes, we can review your Safety Data Sheets, work process, respiratory protection program, and sample to determine exposures if needed.  

5.    I work in an old library and I am afraid the children are getting sick from mold in the building. Can the Safety Bureau help us?  No, the Safety Bureau only has jurisdiction over employees and there is no OSHA standard for mold. If visible mold is present we would recommend contacting a qualified contractor to remediate the area.

6.    I think I smell a sewer odor in my building. Can the Safety Bureau help?  No, these problems should be addressed by a plumber, building inspector, or HVAC technician.  
 
7.    Are there different OSHA standards for Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) in office buildings? No, most IAQ complaints from non-industrial environments are in compliance with permissible exposure limits despite the complaints from building occupants. For example, a welding shop may smell and be smoky and not violate the OSHA standards.  That same air in an office setting would be considered unacceptable by most people, but would still not violate an OSHA standard.   

Proper ventilation addresses most common non-industrial IAQ complaints. We recommend 15 cfm per person be supplied during work hours and a HVAC technician needs to verify your fresh air supply. Below are some helpful IAQ links.

https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/indoorairquality/index.html
https://www.cdc.gov/healthyhomes/bytopic/airquality.html

Here are some tips that may help you improve your indoor air quality:

Schools:

For more information on how to create healthy indoor air quality in your school click on the following Link: https://www.epa.gov/iaq-schools