Important research from the World Health Organization (WHO) has revealed leading Social Determinants of Health (SDoH) in homes and businesses, which are: environmental noise, water quality, and air quality. All three pose serious health risks to businesses, employees and customers. Fortunately, there are a number of methods, many of which are inexpensive, for business owners to consider to improve health in often-polluted business environments. This article will discuss five of them.
Reduce Ambient Noise
Ambient, or background, noises include traffic, alarms, electrical noise from devices such as air conditioners and motors, even people speaking very loudly. The prevention or reduction of ambient noise is important in reducing environmental noise.
Guidelines based on Artificial Intelligence (AI) analysis of SDoH found that the relative risk for death by heart attack or stroke increases 14% for every 10 dBA increase above the annual average of 45 dBA daytime and 35 dBA nighttime. Since the typical business office “cruises along” at 55 dBA, it’s easy to see the negative effects that noise is having on employees’ health!
In her “What Causes Hearing Loss” blog, Jane Brody says that tens of millions of Americans have permanent hearing loss caused by the everyday noise that we take for granted. Since a large part of our time is spent at work, businesses are a good place to look for ways to reduce ambient noise. The following are among suggestions for business owners:
* Get innovative with office layout. For instance, desks situated close together in clusters help compartmentalize noise. In other cases, noisy office equipment such as copy machines, printers, and fax machines can be situated in a separate room away from employees.
* Use noise-cancelling headphones. If redesigning the office is not feasible, perhaps the easiest way to reduce office space in an open office space is with a pair of high-quality noise cancelling headphones. Some quality brands even boast 100% noise reduction.
* Don’t overlook plants! Well-placed plants have proven effective in reducing noise levels in open office settings. The larger the plant, the bigger the impact, not to mention the obvious aesthetic benefits and overall impact on air quality.
Install Sound/Echo Absorbing Surfaces
* Carpeting, and vinyl flooring in particular, are ideal flooring solutions for noise reduction.
* Sound-absorbing wall panels are incredibly effective at combatting noise pollution in the workplace.
* Wall partitions and cubicles have helped companies of all sizes separate employees and reduce overall office noise. Even low-level wall partitions that don’t completely close someone off have proven effective.
* Acoustic ceiling clouds, also known as sound baffles and sound clouds, are suspended from ceilings to help meet architectural design goals and reduce ambient noise. They come in a variety of materials, sizes, and shapes.
Install a Cartridge Water Filter
Cartridge water filters, or water filtration cartridges, have significant health benefits due to being made out of a substance that either trap, adsorbs, or modifies the contaminants in the water. There are many types of filters. Here are a few for business and home owners to consider:
* Sediment filters. This is a mechanical filter with a rating that will indicate what size particles it will (and won’t) remove. There are two types of filter ratings: nominal and absolute. A nominal rating indicates the smallest particle size the filter should remove or reduce. An absolute filter rating refers to a certified reduction rate, usually 99.9%. As their name implies, these filters are most often used to remove sediments and are commonly used if the water comes from a lake or river.
* Activated carbon filters. These filters are particularly effective at removing pollutants that create unpleasant taste, color, and odor in water. These fast-acting filters can eliminate or reduce the levels of chlorine by-products, pesticides, herbicides, and other organic and industrial chemicals. There are two forms of carbon filters in general use: granular and block. Carbon granules are roughly the size of coarse sand while carbon block is finely powdered carbon compressed into a solid mass.
Install a SMART Air Exchange Ventilation System
“Self-Monitoring Analysis And Reporting Technology,” better known as SMART Technology, now exists in Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems, and it’s emerging as an extremely efficient way of saving energy (and in turn money) for home and business owners alike.
As but one example, a SMART system can focus on a single room, such as circulating air in an unused room that a traditional HVAC would continue to either cool (or heat) even though no one is using the room. SMART systems control, or tie, each aspect of the HVAC system together for maximum efficiency. And a system with increased air circulation and distribution is not only healthier, it’s also more efficient, meaning the owner will save money on utility bills.
Change Air Filters Regularly and Often
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) is vital because contaminants such as radon, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and other pollutants can build up indoors, leading to potentially serious health problems. This is even more important during the long flu season when many of us spend more time indoors.
This is where air filters come in by removing those contaminants and other pollutants from the air your employees and customers are breathing. Change your building’s air filters regularly. At least every three months is recommended.
When one considers the high cost that absenteeism due to illness has on a business’s bottom line, reducing ambient noise, and installing sound-absorbing surfaces, cartridge water filters, SMART air systems, and changing air filters regularly (and often), are investments that will reap dividends. What is your business to improve the health of employees and customers?