Encouraging environment result in Dutch workplace survey

18th of September 2014
Encouraging environment result in Dutch workplace survey

Dutch correspondent Nico Lemmens of ISS Facility Services reports on a survey into workplace environment quality carried out by VSR.

In the April edition of this journal the Vereniging Schoonmaak Research VSR (Association for Cleaning Research), an independent Dutch platform for all parties directly or indirectly involved in contract cleaning, was presented. For the second time the association has made an assessment of the workplace environment quality in Dutch office buildings (the first time was in 2011/2012).

VSR wanted to assess the sanitary quality of workplace environments in office buildings spread all over the country. Between the end of 2013 and April 2014 measurements were taken in 40 office buildings, focussing mainly on indoor climate quality.

The measurements contained a visual inspection (ventilation facilities, maintenance condition and clean desk policy), measurement of temperature, relative humidity, CO2 concentrations and fine dust - both during a period of eight hours - and the assessment of microbiological quality.

The workplace sanitary quality was found to be below standard in 23 per cent of the workplaces in the sample. Almost a quarter showed poor results in one or more measured aspects.

One of the remarkable results is the improvement in clean desk policy implementation: in only 35 per cent of the sample clean desk policy was not in place, compared with 75 per cent found in 2012. The relevance of clean desk policy for sanitary quality is obvious: without clean desk policy, desks are spread with all kinds of objects, not only making it difficult to clean them, but also containing possible sources of micro-organism contamination.

In the second measurement of 2013/2014 microbiological scores show a substantial improvement, probably associated with the observed increase in clean desk policy implementation. Another explanation for this result could be the improvement in climate control systems: the percentage of malfunctioning systems decreased from 30 per cent in 2012 to 23 per cent in 2014.

The majority of buildings showed room temperature levels within the acceptable range of 20-24 Celsius. A matter of concern, however, are the relative humidity levels, found to be far below standard (40-50 per cent) in 88 per cent of the measured workplaces, a deterioration compared with the 73 per cent found in 2012.

Another remarkable result was the observed substantial improvement in the levels of CO2. In more than 75 per cent the CO2 concentration was found to be below the 800 ppm standard. In only 2.5 per cent of the sample workplaces the situation was bad (more than 1,200 ppm).

Although CO2 concentrations of these levels do not represent any direct health risks, they can be seen as an indication of a lack of air ventilation. All in all the CO2 results showed a substantial improvement compared to the situation in 2012, when 50 per cent were found to be above CO2 target level en 20 per cent were found to be bad.

Encouraging are also the microbiological results: 75 per cent of the scores were acceptable (against 60 per cent in 2012). Finally, positive measurement results were found for the levels of fine dust: 97 per cent acceptable, compared to 60 per cent in 2012. Whether these encouraging findings are the result of structural improvement in workplace management in the Netherlands, cannot be established on the basis of these findings.


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