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Wilfrid Laurier University Safety, Health, Environment & Risk Management
November 27, 2015
Canadian Excellence

Indoor Air Quality


Indoor air quality concerns can be divided into the categories listed below.

1. Odours
Odours may arise in an IAQ situation from many sources.   Some odours are fleeting, while other may linger for several hours or days.  Odours may come from the following:

  • Outdoor or indoor air which travels through the heating, ventilation and air conditioning system
  • Plumbing issues such as sinks or floor drains with dry p-traps allowing odours to escape from the piping
  • Construction activities
  • Routine maintenance activities
  • Improper chemical use outside of a fume hood
  • Inadequate housekeeping
  • Waste that has been improperly stored or disposed of
  • Plants

2. Indoor Air Discomfort or Sick Building Syndrome
Indoor air discomfort or “Sick Building Syndrome” is usually interpreted by complaints received related to stuffy or stale air and feelings of discomfort during the work day.  Employees often feel better when they leave the building or go home at the end of their shift.  Issues affecting air quality related to sick building syndrome can come from the following:

  • Temperature
  • Insufficient supply and exhaust air
  • Low humidity
  • High dust levels
  • High levels of carbon dioxide
  • The presence of varying levels of contaminants
  • The presence of nuisance odours (such as fragrances, smoke, chemicals)
  • Issues related to lighting, monitor glare and background noise

3. Mould and Other Microbial Contamination
Mould growth usually occurs if there has been a situation in which moisture has been introduced to an area and has not been properly remediated.  This can be caused by a leak or by high humidity.  Usually, interior furnishings or construction materials such as walls, rugs, furniture, ceilings and insulation become wet and do not dry adequately.  If the material remains wet or moist long enough mould may develop.  There are a variety of mould species that can grow, most of which are allergen forming hazards rather than overall health hazards.  Mould contamination is suspected under the following situations:

  • Recent leak or water situation
  • Visible signs of mould growth on building materials or contents
  • Presence of a musty / earthy odour
  • Occupants exhibiting symptoms of mould sensitivity (runny nose, itchy eyes, etc.). 

The Ontario Ministry of Labour guidelines for indoor air quality and standards to which these guidelines refer (e.g. the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers standard, the Canadian Standard Association standards, etc.) will be followed for all cases of indoor air quality concerns at Laurier.


  1. If you have a concern regarding indoor air quality please immediately inform your supervisor. When informing your supervisor be specific and give all pertinent details.
  2. The supervisor shall investigate the concern as soon as possible. 
  3. Following the initial investigation with the employee the supervisor shall take corrective action by contacting Physical Resources to investigate or repair the issue. A work order or service request will be made through Physical Resources (Waterloo/Kitchener – dispatcher at ext. 6280 or via I-Service Desk , Brantford – ext. 5761). 
  4. The employee will fill out the Indoor Air Quality Report form Click Here.
  5. If there are health related concerns or symptoms the supervisor may also contact the Occupational Hygienist and Safety Specialist (ext. 2817).


  1. Physical Resources staff will investigate the area.
  2. Physical Resources staff will check ventilation in the area and review any recent construction or maintenance activities. 
  3. Physical Resources staff will repair any issues found during the investigation.
  4. If Physical Resources cannot identify the issue and the problem persists SHERM should be contacted.


  1. SHERM staff will not respond unless the supervisor and Physical Resources have been contacted.
  2. SHERM will respond as soon as possible to the concern. 
  3. SHERM will go over the Indoor Air Quality Report form with the employee and review the work space.
  4. SHERM will conduct a preliminary Indoor Air Quality investigation which will include: a review of the heating, ventilation and air condition (HVAC) system, observe the area of concern, talk with other staff in the work space (if applicable), conduct testing of comfort level parameters (C02 levels, CO levels, temperature, relative humidity) and if necessary conduct testing of volatile organic compound (VOC) levels. 
  5. While conducting the analytical testing SHERM will look for any water damaged building materials, dust, suspect mould growth, apparent building changes, the presence of odours, air vent locations and conditions, etc.   
  6. Comprehensive testing for chemical or microbial contaminants in the air may be required.  SHERM will determine if further testing is required and may undertake the sampling on its own or with the assistance of a qualified consultant.
  7. If SHERM and Physical Resources cannot determine the issue or cannot resolve the issue a qualified consultant will be hired to conduct a further investigation. 
  8. SHERM will make any necessary recommendations to Physical Resources for mitigation of any issues.
  9. Following the investigation SHERM will prepare a written report.