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The Role of Air Quality Testing in Environmental Health and Safety 

11/12/2023by admin0Read: 8 minutes

The air quality within and around an organisation, industrial workplace, or home can have a negative impact on the people inside. To guarantee the well-being and health of employees, it is crucial to regularly test the air quality and take measures to reduce contaminants that can be harmful to human health.

It’s important to note that even small quantities of certain pollutants can have harmful effects. The most at-risk individuals include vulnerable populations such as children, pregnant women, older individuals, First Nations people, and those with pre-existing health conditions.

Workplace Air Pollutants 

In the workplace, there are several pollutants commonly found, including combustion fumes, diesel fumes, coal dust, crystalline silica dust, lead, welding fumes, metal fumes, acid gases, cooling tower aerosols, asbestos and synthetic mineral fibres, paints and solvents, cleaning materials, and refrigeration gases.

These harmful substances can be extremely dangerous and can have short-term, long-term and life-threatening effects on the workers exposed to air containing these pollutants.

Hence, testing and monitoring both indoor and outdoor air is important.

Importance of Workplace Air Quality Testing 

To uphold work health and safety (WH&S) standards, it’s essential to continuously monitor the level of airborne contaminants and ensure they do not surpass the occupational exposure limits outlined by Safe Work Australia.

Hence, Air quality testing is of paramount importance for workplaces in Australia and the below reasons enlist details:

1) Health and Safety of Employees:

Good indoor air quality is crucial for employee health. Regular air quality testing helps identify and fix contamination sources to prevent health issues caused by pollutants such as dust, fumes, VOCs, mould spores, allergens, and pathogens.

2) Regulatory Compliance: 

Employers in Australia must provide a safe work environment by maintaining good indoor air quality. Air quality testing is necessary to comply with regulations and show dedication to employee well-being.

3) Productivity and Performance: 

Indoor air quality affects employee performance. Poor air quality leads to discomfort, reduced concentration, and increased illness. Good air quality creates a healthy, comfortable work environment, enhancing well-being and productivity.

4) Reputation and Image: 

Maintaining superior indoor air quality in the workplace indicates a commitment towards employee well-being and sustainability. It boosts the reputation, draws top talents, elevates customer satisfaction, and cultivates a flourishing work environment.

5) Legal Liability: 

Employers must regularly assess air quality in the workplace and take corrective actions to avoid health-related legal disputes.

6) Environmental Impact: 

Improving indoor air quality in the workplace reduces negative environmental impact through energy optimization, pollutant reduction, and resource usage. It contributes to a healthier and more sustainable world.

Australia’s Air Quality 

As per the State of the Environment Report 2021, Australia’s air quality is good overall but can be improved. Bushfires, smog, dust storms, population growth, industries, and wood heaters contribute to pollution.

National Clean Air Agreement 

The National Clean Air Agreement was created by Australia’s environment ministers on December 15, 2015, to help governments prioritize actions to address air quality concerns. This agreement establishes a framework for national collaboration on air quality issues to provide Australians with health, environmental, and economic benefits. The agreement’s work plan outlines proposed actions, roles, responsibilities, and timeframes for implementation. It undergoes review and updating every two years.

Air Quality Index for Western Australia

AQIs represent the concentration of the gaseous pollutants based on the National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Standard reached for each gas pollutant and eHealth advice on one-hour averaged particle concentrations. Concentrations are measured as ppb (parts per billion), ppm (parts per million) or ug/m3 (micrograms per cubic metre).

National Environment Protection (Ambient Air Quality) Measure

1) Ambient Air Quality NEPM Goal

To meet the National Environment Protection Standards, following the prescribed monitoring protocol for assessment is necessary.

Desired Environmental Outcomes

Maintaining ambient air quality around us is crucial to protect our overall health and well-being.

2) National Environment Protection Goal
Purpose of Part

 The objective of this Part is to establish goals:

(a) concerning the specific environmental outcomes that we are striving to achieve.

(b) assisting you in developing plans to handle human actions that could impact the environment.

Desired Environmental Outcome

The goal of this measure is to enhance the quality of the air we breathe, minimising the risk of adverse health effects caused by exposure to pollution.

National Environment Protection Goal

The National Environment Protection Goals of this measure are:

(a) To comply with the national environmental protection standards outlined in Table 1 of Schedule 2, it is imperative to restrict the concentrations of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, photochemical oxidants (such as ozone), lead, and particles (such as PM10 and PM2.5).

(b) The permissible levels of sulphur dioxide emissions should be minimised to meet the national environmental protection standards outlined in Table 1 of Schedule 2. As of January 1, 2025, the national environmental protection standard specified in Table 1A of Schedule 2 must also be met.

(c) Starting January 1, 2025, efforts will be made to reduce PM2.5 particles to achieve the maximum concentration reductions outlined in Table 2 of Schedule 2.

However, from January 1, 2023, the goal for particles as PM2.5 will provide a framework for continuous improvement and facilitate a review of the PM2.5 standard.

Part 3 National Environment Protection standards
Purpose of Part

This Part aims to establish measurable standards for assessing ambient air quality.

National Environment Protection Standards

(1) This measure’s national environmental protection standards are set out in Tables 1 and 1A of Schedule 2.

(2) To evaluate the national environment protection standards, it is essential to refer to the national environment protection protocol outlined in Part 4 of this measure.

(3) Subject to subsection (4), for each pollutant mentioned in Table 1 of Schedule 2, the standard for an averaging period mentioned in the Schedule is the concentration in column 4 of Table 1 of Schedule 2.

(4) For sulphur dioxide, from 1 January 2025, the standard for an averaging period mentioned in column 2 of Table 1A of Schedule 2 is the concentration in column 3.

Part 4 National Environment Protection Protocol
Purpose of Part

This Part aims to lay out the various processes to be followed in measuring the concentration of pollutants in the air to find:

(a) if this Measure’s standards are being met; or

(b) how much is the difference between the standards and the calculated concentration of pollutants in the air?

Monitoring plans 

(1) Every participating jurisdiction shall ensure to prepare a monitoring plan outlining this Part and laying out rules on how the jurisdiction should propose to monitor air quality for this Measure.

(2) The Council should be provided with each monitoring plan.

Methods to Measure and Assess Concentration of Air Pollutants

To analyse performance concerning the standards, the number of air pollutants:

(a) should be measured at performance monitoring stations; or

However, it would not be required or suitable to co-locate the measurement equipment for all pollutants at each performance monitoring station since the concentrations of various pollutants fluctuate over an area.

(b) is to be evaluated by alternative methods that deliver data comparable to measures typically at a performance monitoring station.

Note The use of emission inventories, windfield and dispersion models, and comparisons with other locations are a few examples of these techniques.

 Performance Monitoring Accreditation 

(1) The National Association of Testing Authorities must accredit the operator of a performance monitoring station, subject to subsection (2).

(2) The operator is free to use a comparable system to provide proper monitoring, quality control, and validation processes.

Location of Performance Monitoring Stations

(1) Performance monitoring stations must be situated in accordance with Australian Standard AS/NZS 3580.1.1:2016 (Methods for sampling and analysis of ambient air – Guide to locating air monitoring equipment), to the extent that it is practical. To be used in evaluating reports, any deviations from AS/NZS 3580.1.1:2016 must be reported to Council.

(2) The location of the performance monitoring station(s) must help to obtain a measure of the air quality that is likely to be experienced by most of the population in the region or sub-region.

(3) Unless unexpected events compromise the accuracy of the measurements, performance monitoring stations shall be operated in the same spot for at least five years, to the extent practical.

Number of Performance Monitoring Stations

(1) calculating the prospective population at risk must serve as the basis for calculating the number of performance monitoring stations.

(2) If assessed by competent participating authorities, additional performance monitoring stations may be required in high-risk locations.

(3) Where it can be shown that pollutant levels are reasonably expected to be consistently lower than the criteria set out in this Measure, fewer performance monitoring stations may be required.

(4) Subject to paragraphs (1) to (3), an area with a population of 25,000 or more shall have at least as many performance monitoring stations as the next whole number up from the total determined using the following formula:

                                   1.5P + 0.5

where P represents the population of the region (in millions).

The determination of risk shall be carried out in line with any protocols or methodologies agreed upon by participating jurisdictions to guarantee national uniformity.

Trend Stations

(1) Several performance monitoring stations in each participating State and (1) Several performance monitoring stations must be designated as trend stations in each participating State and participating Territory.

(2) There must be enough performance monitoring stations that may be designated as trend stations to track and evaluate long-term changes in ambient air quality across the jurisdiction.

(3) A trend station must be run in the same place for a decade or longer.

Monitoring methods

(1) The Australian Standard techniques listed in Schedule 3 shall be used as reference techniques for monitoring airborne contaminants, subject to subsections (2) and (3).

(2) Suitable globally acknowledged techniques or standards that provide similar information for evaluation purposes may be utilised in the absence of an Australian Standard Method for a monitoring method.

(3) Alternative monitoring techniques may be used if the following conditions are met: 

(a) calibration and validation studies demonstrate

(i) the other monitoring technique’s accuracy and precision; and

(ii) the method can be compared to the applicable Australian Standard Method.

(b) the used equipment is calibrated to the standard required by the equipment manufacturer; and

(c) the equipment provides an equivalent.

Evaluation of Performance against Standards and Goal

(1) Each participating jurisdiction is required to assess its yearly performance in accordance with this section.

(2) The following shall be done for each performance monitoring station in the participating jurisdiction or assessment made in accordance with paragraph 11(b):

(a) determine the exposed population in the region or sub-region that the station represents; and

(b) evaluate performance about the standards and goal of this Measure, other than in relation to Table 2 of Schedule 2, as follows:

(i) meeting; or

(ii) not meeting; or

(iii) not showcased.

(2A) Each participating jurisdiction is required to assess and document population exposures to:

  1. particles as PM2.5 since June 2018; and
  1. photochemical oxidants and nitrogen dioxide as ozone from June 2021.

Note Evaluation and reporting must be done in accordance with any guidelines or practises that participating jurisdictions have agreed upon to guarantee national uniformity.

(3) Using approved procedures that offer comparable data for assessment purposes, participating governments may give an evaluation of an area against the requirements.

(4) Performance shall be assessed as ‘not demonstrated’ if monitoring or evaluation using an authorised alternative technique as specified in section 11 has not been conducted.

Reporting

(1) By 30 June following each reporting year, each participating jurisdiction shall submit to Council a report on its compliance with the Measure in an authorised format, except for Table 2 of Schedule 2.

(2) For purposes of this section, a reporting year ends on December 31.

(2A) It is imperative to incorporate the below given three essential elements in the final report:

a) Ensure that the evaluations and assessments mentioned in section 17 are included.

b) Conduct an in-depth analysis of how well the standards of this measure are being met in the jurisdiction and where they need to catch up.

c) Provide a comprehensive statement on the progress made towards achieving the desired goal.

(3) It’s crucial to include all relevant circumstances and information to accurately identify the causes of exceedances. Providing a complete picture of the situation is essential.

(3A) When it comes to reporting on the PM10 and PM2.5 1-day averages and photochemical oxidants, such as ozone, for an 8-hour average, participating jurisdictions will submit all measured data, including any monitoring data linked to an exceptional event. They will also identify and describe any unusual occurrence.

(3B) Jurisdictions participating should keep and provide access to records related to exceptional event determinations.

(3C) To report compliance with the PM10 and PM2.5 1-day average and photochemical oxidants (such as ozone) 8-hour average standards, participating jurisdictions should disregard monitoring data linked to an exceptional event.

(3D) To report compliance with the PM10 and PM2.5 1-year average standards specified in this measure, participating jurisdictions must include all measured data, including monitoring data related to exceptional events.

Note: All reporting and record-keeping required by Sections 18(3A), (3B), (3C), or (3D) must be done in accordance with any guidelines or practises adopted by participating countries to maintain national uniformity.

(4) The proportion of data that was available during the reporting period must be included in a report for a pollutant.

Why Choose Anitech?

Anitech’s occupational hygienists are experienced in offering top-notch air quality testing and assessment services tailored to suit your organisation’s requirements. Our team uses the latest equipment to measure air pollutants and offers comprehensive mitigation strategies and controls to secure workers’ health.

Our industry experience, and ability to offer solutions to the problem, make us stand out from the crowd.

We precisely monitor air quality levels to identify potential health hazards and maintain a safe and healthy workplace.

Our air quality testing services include:

  • Air Monitoring
  • Dust Monitoring
  • Ventilation Studies

Allow us to help you maintain a workplace environment with controlled air impurities and secure the well-being of your workers and employees. You can call us at 1300 802 163 or email us at sales@anitechgroup.com or enquire here.

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