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Workplace Odor Surveys & Assessments

When your space has an unidentifiable odor, a professional odor assessment can help you determine the cause and risk level. A persistent odor in a building indicates the presence of an issue in need of resolution to promote the occupants’ wellbeing and safety and avoid negative health effects.

While some odor compounds cause a minor nuisance, others can create a significant health hazard. A workplace odor survey will keep your employees safe and improve their quality of life. Our odor survey consulting services will give you the information you need to eliminate the smell.

The IAQ experts at TRC follow a protocol with a successful history of identifying both external and internal odors. Our process determines if the smell comes from the building’s systems and processes, occupant activities or outside the building.

When we conduct an odor survey, we implement our knowledge of building systems and operations and use the survey data to prioritize actions. We also understand potential odor-generating sources that can contribute to the issue.

Factors to Consider Before an Odor Assessment

Prior to conducting an odor assessment, our team needs to put the odor into context. We’ll gather information that helps us understand what steps we need to take to address the odor. Our professionals seek out the answers to the following questions:

  • Where do the building occupants smell the odor?
  • When does the odor happen, and when did it begin?
  • Does the odor’s presence accompany any patterns?
  • Can occupants detect the odor above ceilings?
  • Does the odor occur near a janitor’s closet?
  • What does the odor smell like and at what intensity?
  • Does the weather impact the odor’s intensity or presence?
  • Can you detect the odor before employees come into the building?
  • Does the odor occur in an area served by a certain air handling unit (AHU)?
  • Who perceives the odor?
  • Does the building shut down the HVAC systems overnight?
  • Can you smell the odor over the weekends?
  • Does the odor occur during the night?
  • Are there health effects believed to be caused by the odor?

Finding the answers to these questions will allow us to understand the potential source of the odor.

The Workplace Odor Survey Process

During a professional odor assessment from TRC, our team will:

  • Interview management and other staff
  • Gather general information about the facility
  • Visit the site of the odor and collect relevant data
  • Record the source of the odor and its emissions
  • Sample the air near the odor and its potential sources
  • Analyze samples in a laboratory
  • Report analysis results and assessment findings

Once we determine the source and nature of the odor, we can recommend actions for remediation.

Odor Remediation and Consulting Options

The steps taken to resolve an odor issue depend on the source of the odor and its hazard level. The results from a odor survey may drive us to recommend actions such as:

  • Performing further IAQ testing for mold, bacteria and other contaminants
  • Repairing or replacing HVAC systems, plumbing or another building component
  • Exterminating pests that cause disease and odor
  • Removing pollutants and gases

After overseeing the remediation process, we’ll conduct a final assessment to determine the elimination of the odor and its source.

Resolving IAQ Problems

Every IAQ issue comes from specific sources. Each situation requires a different approach and a range of possible solutions. Some of the common remedies include:

  • Controlling the source by removing or reducing it, sealing it off or otherwise modifying the environment.
  • Using ventilation to draw the contaminant outside, dilute it with fresh air or contain it with pressure relationships.
  • Cleaning the air using particulate filters, electrostatic precipitators, negative ion generators or gas sorption.
  • Controlling exposure by scheduling contaminant-producing activities outside of the building’s active hours.
  • Relocating susceptible individuals.

To better understand the strategic thinking involved in improving indoor air quality, consider some common examples.

Sample Problem — Outdoor Contamination

Outdoor contamination can enter your building through your HVAC’s air intakes. It could involve soil gases like radon, emissions from vehicles in the parking lot or loading dock and other pollutants.

Here are a few approaches to remediating these types of contamination:

  • Remove the source: Relocate dumpsters and debris near the air intake.
  • Reduce the source: Shift schedules for outdoor construction, roofing, demolition, painting, housekeeping and pest control outside of peak occupied periods.
  • Relocate the ventilation: Move outdoor air intakes away from odor and contamination sources. Or, move exhausts away from air intakes, windows and doors to prevent recirculation.
  • Adjust air pressure relationships: Depressurize your building’s subslab to prevent soil gas from entering. In addition, give the building positive pressure compared to the outdoors. Close pollutant pathways by sealing cracks and holes.
  • Add specialized HVAC equipment: Install filtration that can remove the pollutant in question.

Sample Problem — HVAC System Contamination

Another common IAQ problem comes from contamination in the HVAC system. There could be dust, dirt or microbes inside the equipment, which circulates it into the indoor environment.

Here, the best option is to remove the source. Some removal strategies include:

  • Inspect the equipment for corrosion and humidity, then replace corroded components.
  • Regularly clean drip pans, outdoor air intakes and other elements exposed to moisture.
  • When necessary, use disinfectants, biocides and sanitizers with caution to avoid exposing occupants to chemical pollutants.

Looking for effective solutions to your problems?

Turn to the experts at TRC.

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