A robust health and safety plan is one of those things that are better to have and not need, than to need and not have in a building. However, most managers think that complying with the bare minimum regulations is enough, when in reality they need to go the extra mile in order to ensure that their occupants can count on the safety measures in place if there’s an emergency.
What most managers don’t know is that it doesn’t mean investing a lot of time or money. We are going to tell you what a health and safety plan is, and how you can easily create one for your building.
According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) a health and safety plan “is a definite plan of action designed to prevent incidents and occupational diseases.” Workplace incidents will vary according to the industry, and can include fires, electrical incidents, falls, and chemical exposure.
In the case of most Canadian commercial and residential buildings, carbon monoxide incidents take a significant place among the potential hazards. This is because the buildings are designed to keep their occupants warm for most of the year, and this includes heated parkades with little to no outside air coming in.
These conditions create an environment that simulates an airtight box, depending 100% on a well-functioning ventilation system to keep the air clean and safe to breathe. Since most of us (building managers included) hardly spend any time in a parkade, we’re unlikely to think about its air quality.
However, the alarmingly high levels of CO in Calgary and Southern Alberta parkades, and the potential health hazard, should be enough for managers to start thinking about what they can do to ensure air quality in parkades. This is even more important when you consider when the building code does not include specific safety measures regarding air quality for underground parking.
The CCOHS also mentions that every plan should include elements to match the specific needs of the building. According to our experience, we’ve selected the components that we believe a comprehensive health and safety plan for both commercial and residential buildings should include.
As we mentioned, a ventilation system working at its full potential is the first defence to ensure good air quality and prevent air pollution incidents in buildings. Establishing a regular air ventilation system maintenance and cleaning protocol is the best way to make sure all its components are working properly.
We recommend the installation of water-resistant monitors because when it is time to clean the parkade. There is a risk that the cleaning crew may disable them due to water or cleaning product splashes.
Smaller commercial buildings or residential buildings frequently lack this type of policy, but we recommend in addition to having and performing their own hazard assessment, every building should demand that contractors have one as well.
Before beginning a project, such as cleaning or repair work, the participants in these projects should do a hazard assessment to prevent and mitigate risks.
A good health and safety program should start with the installation of an alarm that alerts the occupants that the CO levels are dangerously high. Since carbon monoxide and most of the other hazardous air pollutants are invisible and odourless, by having alarms with both sound and visual cues, especially in the parkade will help reduce or eliminate the possibility of CO poisoning.
Our recommendation is to install single gas detectors, because the sensors on the ones that monitor more than one air pollutant do not perform as well in our tests. In case of commercial building parkades, CO monitors will usually be enough since this is the main problem from gas vehicle exhaust. If your building has different needs, contact us.
Ensuring your equipment is calibrated and working properly is key. We recommend that you count on a specialist in hazardous gases to take care of this task, because it will give you the peace of mind that your monitors are protecting your occupants, and it will protect you from potential liability in case of an incident. We calibrate our equipment annually, and recommend bump testing on a more frequent basis.
Good decisions require good information, that’s why you should help your building occupants help you by informing them about the risks of carbon monoxide to their health and the dangers of car idling. Putting visible signs on your parkade is the best place to start, and we’ve made our own signs to help you. Download them for free here.
As you can see, creating a health and safety plan doesn’t have to be overly complicated, and it will save you from more than a headache. If you need a personalised assessment to set you on the right track to create or update your building’s plan, our experts are here to help.
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