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Poor ventilation puts workers in real danger

| Jun 22, 2021 | Workers' Compensation

Imagine a dangerous work environment. What does it look like?

Most people would think of places like industrial plants and construction sites. But the fact is that any workplace can become dangerous to workers when it has poor ventilation.

The consequences of ventilation issues

Proper ventilation is critical to every work environment, but people often don’t think about it until something goes wrong. 

When worksites do not have windows, moving air or a well-maintained HVAC system, any person in the building can suffer a range of serious illnesses and injuries. 

Working in an enclosed space with poor air quality and ventilation can result in conditions including:

  • Asphyxiation
  • Respiratory problems
  • Headaches
  • Eye irritation
  • Bacterial infections
  • COVID-19 and other contagious illnesses
  • Heat stress

While ventilation is crucial in every work environment to prevent these illnesses, there are some places where air quality issues can become fatal.

For instance, six workers died when a liquid nitrogen leak created a drop in oxygen levels. Nearly a dozen others were injured. They were in a food processing plant where liquid nitrogen is routinely used for refrigeration purposes. However, the leak went undetected for too long.

When workplaces have proper ventilation and gas detection systems, they can mitigate the impact of a dangerous leak or prevent them altogether. Unfortunately, not all employers take these precautions.

Steps to help workers breathe easier

There are several ways employers and employees can protect against the harmful consequences of poor air quality.

Some of the measures that should be in place in a workplace include:

  • Having a safe, well-maintained HVAC system
  • Ensuring there are windows that open
  • Installing an oxygen monitoring system
  • Monitoring temperature and humidity 
  • Using a dehumidifier

Further, employees should have a way to report air quality issues or concerns to employers. If employers do not address these concerns, employees can file a complaint with the Michigan Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Working in a place with poor air quality puts employees in danger of getting sick or hurt. And just like any other job-related illness or injury, those caused by deficient ventilation can be eligible for relief through workers’ compensation benefits.