04.04.2017 Author: Zehnder Clean Air Solutions

Do employees have a right to clean air?

We live in a populated, polluted world. Our planet’s rapid industrialization has advanced how we live and work to an impressive degree – however, the side effects of such manufacturing processes have been linked to worrying reports of global warming, climate change, death and disease. The current focus is primarily on reducing outdoor air pollution, but it’s time more attention was given to address the right to clean air in the workplace.


With World Health Day (7 April) around the corner, we take a look at people’s right to clean air at work.

In accordance with the Paris Agreement, the EU has approved a set of rules that aims to drastically reduce outdoor air pollution in Europe – as well as the number of air pollution related deaths and diseases by 2030. It’s most certainly a step in the right direction however, there are no specific policies governing indoor air quality.

In China workers have a right to clean air set through Occupational Exposure Limits (OELs). According to the Chemical Inspection and Regulation Service, companies have to adhere to OELs that cover 339 hazardous chemicals, 47 kinds of dust and 2 types of bacteria. However, this does not apply to general workplace dust or pollution that is transported in from the outside.

Legislation is still behind when it comes to indoor air pollution, but employers around the world have a responsibility to provide their workers with clean air. Failure to do so will impact negatively on your employees’ health and could put you in violation of health and safety laws. What’s more, when the well-being of your employees suffers, sick leave requests increase, productivity levels decline and your business’ bottom line ultimately pays the price.

Workplace health and safety regulations differ from country to country. The United States Department of Labour states that employers are required to follow the General Duty Clause of the OSHAct. This provides workers with a safe workplace that does not contain any known hazards that cause, or are likely to cause, death or serious injury. Once again, the right to clean air is not expressed. 

Under the EU Health and Safety Framework Directive, employers must ensure that their workplaces are healthy and safe. Each worker’s role and job function has to be assessed for its occupational hazards – and adequate protective and preventative measures are required by law. These workplace regulations however, do not consider the impact that general dust can have on the quality of indoor air and thus, the health of employees.

Unlike outdoor air pollution, the law is still far behind when it comes to monitoring the quality of indoor air. Current workplace health and safety regulations don’t go far enough to protect employees from breathing in harmful levels of dust and dirt while at work. Take matters into your own hands and make sure that your workplace offers its employees the best indoor air possible. Your investment will show fast results: healthier employees who work harder, produce more and boost your business profits.

If you’d like to give your employees the right to clean air, and improve their productivity levels, contact the Zehnder team today!


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