Managing Asthma Risks in Office Environments: A Facility Manager’s Guide

Managing Asthma Risks in Office Environments: A Facility Manager’s Guide

Understanding the direct link between indoor air quality and employee health could transform your approach to office management—here's how facility managers can lead the charge in creating safer, healthier work environments.

Managing Asthma Risks in Office Environments: A Facility Manager's Guide

The Crucial Role of Facility Managers in Enhancing Office Air Quality and Health

In today's office environments, indoor air quality is not just a comfort issue—it's a critical health concern.

With asthma affecting millions globally, there's a growing awareness among business leaders and facility managers about the impact that indoor environments can have on an individual's well-being.

Poor air quality in office settings can trigger various respiratory problems, with asthma being among the most significant.

This condition affects employees' health and productivity and contributes to higher healthcare costs and increased absenteeism, making it a key issue for facility management to address.

Balancing health, safety, and budget considerations is central to effective office facility management.

Facility managers must navigate these competing priorities to maintain a safe and productive workplace.


Understanding the Health Impacts of Cleaning Chemicals

The choice of cleaning chemicals in office environments directly impacts indoor air quality and can significantly influence employee health.

Common Chemical Culprits

  • Ammonia and Bleach: Often used for their strong cleaning power, these chemicals can irritate the respiratory tract and trigger asthma attacks.
  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): Found in many aerosol sprays and some cleaning solutions, VOCs can cause various health issues, including respiratory irritation, headaches, and long-term damage to lung function.

Potential Health Risks

  • Immediate Effects: Exposure can lead to coughing, wheezing, throat irritation, and, in severe cases, acute respiratory distress.
  • Long-Term Exposure: Chronic exposure can lead to the development of asthma in individuals who were not previously asthmatic and can exacerbate existing asthma conditions, potentially leading to more frequent and severe attacks.

Preventive Measures

  • Selecting Safer Products: Opt for cleaning agents labeled "low-VOC" and "asthma-friendly" to minimize risks.
  • Proper Ventilation: Ensure cleaning is done in well-ventilated areas to quickly dissipate potentially harmful fumes.
  • Educating Staff: Train cleaning personnel on the correct use and storage of chemicals to prevent accidental overexposure.


Balancing Budget and Health Priorities in Cleaning Practices

Effectively managing the costs associated with cleaning practices while prioritizing employee health can be challenging but essential for long-term benefits.

Economic Impact of Asthma in the Workplace

  • Direct Costs: Includes healthcare expenses such as treatments and hospital visits for employees affected by poor air quality.
  • Indirect Costs: Loss of productivity due to absenteeism and reduced work performance.

Investing in Healthier Options

  • Initial Costs vs. Long-Term Savings: Although eco-friendly and health-conscious cleaning products might have a higher upfront cost, they can lead to significant long-term savings by reducing health-related absences and increasing employee productivity.
Examples of Cost-Saving Practices
  • Switching to reusable cleaning materials, which last longer and reduce waste.
  • Investing in concentrated cleaning products that offer savings over time compared to ready-to-use products.

Conducting Cost-Benefit Analyses

  • Evaluate ROI: Assess the return on investment by considering direct cost savings and improvements in employee health and productivity.
  • Long-term Health Benefits: Calculate potential reductions in healthcare costs from decreased asthma incidents and other respiratory issues.

Practical Advice for Cost Management

  • Budget Allocation: As part of the office’s health and safety budget, allocate funds specifically for healthier cleaning practices.
  • Vendor Selection: Choose suppliers who offer competitive pricing for bulk purchases of asthma-friendly cleaning products.
  • Monitoring and Adjustment: Regularly review the effectiveness of current cleaning practices and make adjustments to maximize cost-efficiency and health benefits.


Staying Informed: Regulations and Best Practices in Office Cleaning

Keeping up-to-date with regulatory changes and industry best practices is vital for facility managers committed to maintaining safe and healthy office environments.

Understanding Regulations

  • OSHA Guidelines: Familiarize with Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations related to hazardous chemicals and ensure all cleaning practices meet these standards.
  • EPA Standards: Stay informed about Environmental Protection Agency standards for indoor air quality, especially those pertaining to the permissible levels of various chemicals in office environments.

Adopting Best Practices

  • Green Cleaning Programs: Implement programs that focus on sustainability and the reduction of harmful chemicals in cleaning processes.
  • Routine Audits and Inspections: Regularly schedule audits to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations and to identify areas for improvement.
  • Continuing Education: Encourage staff, especially those directly involved in cleaning and maintenance, to participate in workshops and training sessions on the latest cleaning technologies and health standards.

Leveraging Professional Resources

  • Industry Associations: Join associations like IFMA (International Facility Management Association), which offer resources, training, and networking opportunities focused on facility management.
  • Subscriptions and Publications: Subscribe to industry publications like "Facilities Management Journal" and online resources such as to receive updates on new regulations and innovative cleaning solutions.
  • Conferences and Seminars: Attend relevant conferences and seminars to learn from experts and peers about cutting-edge practices in facility management.

Engaging with Technology

  • Smart Cleaning Solutions: Explore the use of smart technologies in cleaning, such as IoT-enabled devices that monitor soap and paper towel usage, helping to optimize cleaning schedules and supply management.
  • Data-Driven Decisions: Utilize data analytics to assess the effectiveness of different cleaning products and methods, adapting practices based on real-time feedback and results.



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Facility managers are pivotal in ensuring that office environments are productive, safe, and healthy for all employees.

By staying informed about the health impacts of cleaning chemicals, balancing the budget with health priorities, and keeping abreast of the latest regulations and best practices, facility managers can create office spaces that enhance well-being and foster a positive work culture.

Embracing these responsibilities not only helps in meeting compliance and safety standards but also boosts overall business performance through enhanced employee health and productivity.

Let's prioritize clean air and safe environments as key components of our workplace management strategies.

If you would like more information regarding the effectiveness of high-performance infection prevention and control measures, or if you would like to schedule a free, no-obligation on-site assessment of your facility's custodial needs, contact us today for a free quote!

In Bakersfield, CA, call (661) 437-3253

In Fresno, CA, call (559) 206-1059

In Valencia, CA, or Santa Clarita, CA, call (661) 437-3253

In Palmdale, CA, or Lancaster, CA, call (661) 371-4756

Vanguard Cleaning Systems of the Southern Valley

Vanguard Cleaning Systems of the Southern Valley