Occupational Hygiene and Indoor Air Quality

The University is committed to promoting the health, safety and well-being of its workers, students, visitors and contractors, in accordance with the University of Calgary Occupational Health & Safety Policy.  The University will meet or exceed best practices in occupational hygiene principles, and legislated requirements made under the Alberta Occupational Health and Safety Act, Regulation and Code. 

Occupational hygiene is a component of health and safety that focuses on preventing and minimizing the potential for workers to experience negative health effects, as a result of exposure to hazards found in their workplace.  Exposure potential is assessed by using recognition, evaluation, and control approaches; incorporating health and safety principles and established programs.   


All odour concerns are to be reported to the Customer Care Centre at 403.220.7555 during regular business hours and to Campus Security at 403.220.5333 after regular business hours for investigation.

Assessing exposure potential is typically accomplished by understanding: what activity is being completed, how and where the activity is being conducted, identified hazards and implemented controls, and duration and frequency of the activity. 

Hazard Assessment and Control Forms (HACF), Safe Operating Procedures (SOP), and equipment operational manuals are examples of documents that can be reviewed as part of an occupational hygiene assessment. 

Sampling may be incorporated as part of the evaluation; however, the focus is primarily on identifying and controlling the hazard at the source, as sampling results may not always be the best resource for determining a resolution. 

Responsibilities:

Supervisors

  • Ensure HACF incorporates all hazardous agents with the potential to cause injury or illness
  • Review reporting options.
  • In a timely manner, address concerns raised by workers, assess effectiveness of existing controls and implement additional corrective actions, if required.
  • Participate in and/or support efforts to conduct an occupational hygiene assessment.

Workers

  • Review reporting options.
  • Ensure familiarity with HACF including all required controls.
  • Promptly report any concerns to the supervisor.
  • Participate in efforts to conduct an occupational hygiene assessment.
  • Participate in implementation of corrective actions.

Facilities Management

  • Participate in and support efforts to conduct an occupational hygiene assessment, as needed.
  • Participate in implementation of corrective actions, as needed.

Environment, Health & Safety

  • Conduct assessments in a timely manner.
  • Engage Facilities Management, external consultant, or other as needed.
  • Maintain EHS owned equipment (e.g. calibrations).
  • Report findings and recommendations to participants and other as appropriate.

 

Reporting Options

For questions related to exposure potential or to initiate an assessment, contact the EHS Consultant assigned to your faculty/business unit or the EHS main office at 403.220.6345, or email ucsafety@ucalgary.ca.

Indoor air quality issues can result from interactions between building materials and furnishings, activities within the building, climate, and building occupants. The University of Calgary is committed to providing a work environment that minimizes recognizable hazards and investigating any concerns that may be related to poor indoor air quality.

Health Canada and the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) have established air quality and comfort parameters for indoor (non-industrial) environments. These standards are used as best practices throughout the industry and have therefore been adopted by the University of Calgary.

Spaces and activities (e.g. laboratory, industrial, health care, animal care) may have specific standards, legislation, or University requirements.  These will be followed in addition to, or in lieu of the Health Canada and ASHRAE guidelines as appropriate.

Responsibilities:

Supervisors

  • Review reporting options.
  • In a timely manner, address both concerns raised by workers and implementation of corrective actions.
  • Ensure an Archibus work request has been submitted and/or the Customer Care Centre has been contacted
  • Participate in and/or support investigation efforts.

Workers

  • Review reporting options.
  • Promptly report any concerns to the supervisor.
  • Submit an Archibus work request and/or contact the Customer Care Centre.
  • Participate in investigation efforts.
  • Participate in implementation of corrective actions.

Facilities Management

  • Respond in a timely manner to all indoor air quality concerns, in consideration of the nature of the concern.
  • Engage Environment, Health, and Safety, external service provider, or other as needed.
  • Participate in and support efforts to conduct an investigation, as needed.
  • Participate in implementation of corrective actions, as needed.

Environment, Health & Safety

  • Respond in a timely manner to all indoor air quality concerns, in consideration of the nature of the concern.
  • Engage Facilities Management, external consultant, or other as needed.
  • Maintain EHS owned equipment (e.g. calibrations).
  • Report findings and recommendations to participants and others as appropriate.

Reporting Options

  • Submit an Archibus work request and/or call the Customer Care Centre at 403.220.7555 during regular business hours.
  • Contact the EHS Consultant assigned to your faculty or the EHS main office at 403.220.6345 during regular business hours, or email ucsafety@ucalgary.ca
  • Contact Campus Security at 403.220.5333 after regular business hours for investigation.
  • Report a Hazard or Concern to Facilities

Indoor Air Quality Occupant Diary

The Indoor Air Quality Occupant Diary is a tool that may assist with identifying conditions associated with a concern. This diary may be requested to be completed by those experiencing health-related symptoms, but can also be used by personnel to record experiences in advance of reporting. 

At the University, it is common practice to remove building materials impacted by mould.  This is important not only for the health of occupants, but also to prevent any further damage to building materials. 

Visible mould is typically an indicator of water infiltration, leaks, or too much condensation.  Reporting visible mould helps Facilities Management in the ongoing maintenance of our buildings and mechanical systems, and in maintaining a healthy work environment.

As moulds are commonly found in both outdoor and indoor environments, monitoring for airborne fungal spores is not typically completed.  Rather, if a mould concern is raised without visible mould being present, an assessment will be completed to determine the potential for mould growth.  This can include a visual inspection to look for signs of water (e.g. water staining, wet materials, pooling) and visible mould growth, assessing odours, speaking with individuals to understands symptoms being experienced, and engaging Facilities Management as needed.   

 

Reporting Options

  • Submit an Archibus work request and/or call the Customer Care Centre at 403.220.7555 during regular business hours.
  • Report a Hazard or Concern to Facilities
  • Contact the EHS Consultant assigned to your faculty or the EHS main office at 403.220.6345 ucsafety@ucalgary.ca during regular business hours. 

There is a growing understanding about adverse effects experienced by some people when they are exposed to scented products.  There are members of our university community who may not be able to use facilities such as study spaces, libraries, theatres, classrooms, and work spaces due to the presence of scented products.    

Examples of scented products are below: 

  • Deodorant
  • Laundry soap and stain removers
  • Hand and body soap
  • Makeup
  • Dryer fabric softener sheets
  • Hand and body lotions
  • Shaving cream
  • Air fresheners
  • Perfume, cologne, aftershave lotion
  • Sunsreen
  • Scented candles
  • Hair care products

 

Reporting Options

A Human Resources Partner and Human Resources Advisor have been assigned to each Faculty and Unit, and can be contacted for assistance with a scent-related concern. Click here to find your HR team.

The purpose of this policy is to:

  • promote a smoke-free environment;
  • ensure that the University of Calgary is in compliance with the City of Calgary Smoking Bylaw, Alberta Tobacco Reduction Act; and
  • establish educational programs and assistance for University of Calgary staff and students, who currently smoke or use tobacco and smoking related products, and wish to quit.

As per this Policy, tobacco and smoking related products include:

  • all tobacco-containing or tobacco-derived products including but not limited to, cigarettes, cigars, cigarillos, and hookah products; oral tobacco and nasal tobacco, but excluding nicotine gum and transdermal nicotine patches;
  • electronic cigarettes, personal vaporizers and electronic nicotine delivery systems; and
  • products that, when used, mimic or simulate smoking.

Unfortunately with the changing climate, the expectation is that environmental smoke within Calgary due to wildfire activity will continue to occur and potentially increase in frequency. These events generate questions and concerns from our University community. 

The University will follow the advice of local authorities in responding to such events. As such, the University recommends that the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI), published by the Government of Alberta to communicate information about air quality and associated recommendations, be consulted when considering continuation or modification to outdoor activities.  The university would not send people home due to a smoke event unless local authorities recommended doing so.

Resources

Alberta Government Wildfire Smoke and Your Health

Alberta Health ServicesAir Quality Advisories 

 

University Buildings and Smoke Infiltration Minimization

University buildings are managed to minimize infiltration of smoke during wildfire events. Facilities Management adjusts HVAC systems on a building-by-building basis to minimize smoke entering into a building, while maintaining supply air needs for building operations. HVAC systems vary by building and some buildings and/or spaces operate with 100% outdoor supply air, meaning the ability to reduce outdoor air and increase recirculated air is unavailable. 

Due to the anticipation that wildfire smoke events are likely to continue, Facilities Management is reviewing current filters and control strategies to better manage the potential for smoke infiltration.

Buildings with operable windows should remain closed during these events.

 

Worker Health Difficulties due to Poor Air Quality from Wildfire Smoke Events

If a worker is experiencing adverse health effects due to poor air quality, they should consult with their health care provider to determine any underlying conditions. If the health care practitioner determines that some form of workplace accommodation is required, the individual and their supervisor should engage Staff Wellness.

There should be no need for indoor workers to wear respirators and they will not be provided.

The University would not send people home due to a smoke event unless local authorities recommended doing so.

Click here to view the University of Calgary's Workplace Accommodation. 

 

Outdoor Work/Research Activities during Wildfire Smoke Events

The university recommends that the AQHI be consulted when considering continuation or modification to outdoor activities. Based on the recommendations associated with AQHI levels, supervisors may modify or suspend work for outdoor workers to eliminate or reduce strenuous activities.

If outdoor work or research activities cannot be suspended during wildfire smoke events, an evaluation of the outdoor activities as compared to recommendations related to air quality ratings should be completed and documented on the daily Field Level Hazard Assessment (FLHA).

Potential controls for the FLHA for this event could include regular indoor breaks, less strenuous activity, use of respiratory protection, etc. As respiratory protection is legislatively required to be fit tested and training provided, planning for this control should be completed prior to an event.

 

Air Quality Health Index

The AQHI provides a number from 1 to 10 to indicate the level of relative health risk associated with local air quality. The higher the AQHI number, the greater the health risk and need to take precautions. Occasionally during extreme pollution events, such as a forest fire smoke event, AQHI levels may reach 10 or 10+, indicating Very High Health Risk. 

Each level of health risk is associated with a pair of health messages for at risk and general populations. It suggests steps we can take to reduce our pollution exposure.

Click here to view the Air Quality Health Index Map for Alberta.

 

At Risk Populations

Each individual reacts differently to air pollution. Small increases in air pollution over a short period of time can increase symptoms of pre-existing illness among those at risk.

The at-risk population generally includes:

  • children are more vulnerable to air pollution because they have less-developed respiratory and defence systems, are smaller in size, inhale more air per kilogram of body weight than adults, and they generally spend more time outdoors being physically active
  • people participating in sports or strenuous work outdoors breathe more deeply and rapidly, allowing more air pollution to enter their lungs
  • people with lung disease (such as chronic bronchitis, asthma, emphysema, or lung cancer), heart disease (such as angina, a history of heart attacks, congestive heart failure, arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat), and diabetes are more sensitive to air pollution
  • seniors are at higher risk because of weakening of the heart, lungs and immune system and increased likelihood of health problems such as heart and lung disease.

There are a number of environmental conditions external to a building that can contribute to adverse symptoms experienced by individuals while at work.  Some examples and resources are provided below.

Allergens (Seasonal & Non-Seasonal)

The Weather Network provides daily Allergy Outlook information by evaluating airborne concentration of pollen particles and fungal spores.  An air quality rating is also included in the daily Allergy Outlook as based on the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI).  For more information on the AQHI refer to the Wildfire Smoke and Air Quality Health Index dropdown within this website.

Humidity

Health Canada and the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) have established comfort parameters with respect to relative humidity of 35% - 50% and 30% - 60% respectively.  In dry climates such as Calgary, the minimum guideline recommendation of 30% is difficult to achieve. 

The following symptoms can be an indication of low relative humidity:

  • nasal congestion, irritated sinuses, itchy nose
  • dry, irritated eyes
  • dry, scratchy, irritated throat
  • dry, scaly, chapped, cracked, itchy, irritated skin
  • dehydration
  • nose bleeds
  • allergy or asthma flare ups
  • an increase in colds or flus

The University recommends using a desk top humidifier or vapourizer (without scent) to provide moisture into the air while at a work station.  Other tricks are to place a bowl of water, or a plant that lives in water such as bamboo at your work station as this will allow for water to evaporate into the air adding moisture.  The University discourages the use of large humidifiers within the work place as too much humidity can lead to other issues such as condensation and mould growth.