The OSH Act requires employers provide a safe work environment free from known hazards. This includes maintaining indoor air quality, which may be contaminated by dust, mold, industrial chemicals, and other pollutants. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency does not address poor air quality at work, but provides broader air quality standards that apply to workplaces.
Clear Air Act Regulations
The Clean Air Act was passed in 1970 in response to smog levels in major metropolitan areas. The act was amended in 1990 to include standards covering pollutants responsible for toxic air depletions, acid rain, and ozone depletions. As the Clean Air Act applies to such pollution at a national level, its air quality standards apply to workplaces.
National Ambient Air Quality Standards
The clean air act requires the EPA establish National Ambient Air Quality standards, which apply to outdoor areas, including outdoor work areas. To date, the EPA has created six NAAQs, regulating airborne levels of particulate matter, ozone, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and lead. As they apply to public welfare, these Clean Air Act regulations also apply to work environments.
OSHA and Indoor Air Quality Standards
Surprisingly, OSHA does not address poor air quality at work directly. Instead, the organization has a number of indoor air quality standards related to specific pollutants and issues. OSHA standards that might be applied to workplace air quality, inkling:
- Carbon dioxide,
- Diesel exhaust,
- Dust / fine particulates,
- Second-hand smoke,
- Legionnaires disease,
- Volatile organic compounds.
In addition, poor air quality at work falls under the Occupational Safety and Health Act’s General Duty Clause. The clause requires employees to maintain a safe work environment as free from hazards as possible. As this includes poor air quality at work, the clause can be used to penalize employers who fail to take adequate steps to ensure healthy air quality.
Learning to Maintain Indoor Air Quality
Learn to identify and correct health hazards associated with poor air quality at work with TPC Training’s Indoor Air Quality course. Learn to identify the symptoms of poor air quality, sources of air contamination, and how you can improve air quality while adhering to Clean Air Act regulations.