There are a few primary instances when manufacturers should test their air quality: upon setting up a new operation or piece of equipment, to identify the source of any potential exposures to hazardous material, and to confirm that operations all meet regulatory requirements. Both the substances of concern and the circumstances will determine the appropriate test to use.
In establishing controls, a consultant would first test the indoor air quality to confirm whether or not a company has an air quality issue. This baseline measurement also gives the designer some idea of the potential air quality
issues so the appropriate engineering controls can be selected and designed. Once the system is in place, the company should retest the air quality to confirm that the control put in place is effective.
An indoor air quality test measures the chemical concentrations inside a facility where workers are exposed. The normal procedure is to place a small pump on the worker, with a tube that comes up to the collar near the breathing zone. A small opening takes in air and brings it through the pump into a cassette to collect contaminants in the air. That cassette is then tested to assess the concentration of certain emissions in the workplace, based on facility operations and chemical usage. In addition to personal testing, pumps would be placed in a few other general areas to measure the amount of chemicals in various areas of the workspace.
For concerns about an unidentified source—say, when a worker is reporting symptoms such as dizziness that the employer suspects is related to air quality—the consultant may use various meters to perform instantaneous, short- or long-term measurements. Meters can measure the amount of oxygen, carbon monoxide and certain other chemicals in the air.
While certain air quality tests are used to identify a problem, other tests are required to confirm compliance with federal, state or local regulations on emission limits in the atmosphere. There are three testing methods that are typically used:
Each of these test methods can be used together to determine that a facility is meeting emission limits.
Testing is not to be done once and then forgotten. Depending on the regulatory requirements, testing may need to be repeated at a set frequency to confirm that the controls in place still work. Facility owners and employers also will need to maintain proof of this testing, and its success, as we’ll discuss in the next chapter.
Click here to download our full Air Quality Guide: Controlling the Air Quality in Your Facility: What You Need to Know About Your Regulatory Requirements and Options for Compliance.