Since Spring 2021, Gasonic has checked the health and safety risks of more than 100 parkades in Southern Alberta. The information we gathered was priceless in developing a hazard assessment and control process to satisfy any health and safety investigation after an incident.
An astonishing fact from the data Gasonic collected in our research over the past months is that most parkades regularly experience very high spikes in the level of carbon monoxide that fluctuate greatly throughout the day. Here are five recommendations to reduce the risk of hazardous gas incidents, and ensure the air in your parkade remains safe.
Many parkade hazardous gas incidents occur during cleaning. Some cleaners cover the carbon monoxide detector to protect it from water during the cleaning process, while at the same time increasing the level of carbon monoxide in the air with power washers or other gas powered tools.
Tampering with safety monitors in this way can be dangerous for the worker and increase liability for the owner. It’s particularly unfortunate because CO monitors that are able to withstand water exposure are now available.
Many of our customers require contractors to have a health and safety program, particularly most large office towers. These programs require performing a hazard assessment before embarking on a project such as cleaning or repair work in a parking garage.
Smaller commercial buildings or residential buildings are often without this type of policy, despite the fact that it remains the owner or manager’s responsibility to identify risks, and develop control measures to mitigate those risks.
In doing these assessments, I quickly realized that using the Occupational Health and Safety Act as the standard to protect people does not actually protect everyone. That’s because the government developed OSHA for workers’ safety only. The maximum amount of time a worker is assumed to be in the building is for the 8 hours of their shift. In residential buildings, people reside in them much longer.
The majority of people who use a parkade are visitors and residents of the building. Vulnerable people with health risks, such as those who are pregnant, children and people with chronic lung disease are more susceptible to harm than the workers OSHA was written to protect, so it stands to reason building owners who want to protect occupants and protect themselves should raise the air quality standards higher than OSHA’s bare minimum.
We can start to mitigate invisible threats like clear, odorless toxins by making the threat visible. In other words, by having a visual and audible alarms. Some buildings have CO monitors that only sound in the mechanical room, while still others have models that make a chirping sound not familiar to most passersby and easy to tune out.
We recommend an alarm loud enough to prompt evacuation, as well as one with a visual cue for the deaf and hard of hearing.
If changing the amount of ventilation doesn’t remove all the pollution, in your building there are new solutions to solve this problem. One example is a paint that contains a neutralizing catalyst. When the paint is applied to the walls, the catalyst works to remove the pollution from the air.
The most dangerous gas from the tailpipe is carbon monoxide. We tend to spend much of our time taking precautions against it, however it’s important to note that other invisible tailpipe gases can also harm our health, like volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and particulates are also common in parking garages.
In particular, Health Canada has warned people about the danger of benzene in vehicle exhaust, and of the extent to which attached garages increase our exposure to this carcinogen.
If you are unsure about the quality of your indoor air, please get in touch to learn more about having it assessed.
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