What is Air Monitoring in the Workplace?
Airborne contaminants can present a significant risk to workers’ health and safety if intake is likely to occur by inhalation. Air monitoring is the process involving the identification and quantification of these contaminants through reliable measurements and air sampling. This process is usually undertaken by an occupational hygienist, Prior to measurements, initial review of products used at the work site, the work process, operating areas and conditions is undertaken to identify potential air contaminants. Based on this information a sampling strategy is developed for further identification and quantification of air contaminants.
SESA certified occupational hygienists are specialist consultants in air testing, monitoring, investigations and have been providing air testing and exposure monitoring services in workplaces and practical solutions to various industries almost daily for over 14 years.
When is Air Monitoring Required?
Air monitoring is needed for:
- Selecting personal protective equipment (respiratory protective equipment or RPE)
- Delineating areas where personal protection is needed
- Assessing the health effects of potential exposure to airborne contaminants
- Determining the need for specific medical surveillance
- Ensuring control measures are effective or if further control measures are required
- Evaluating if the workplace exposure to air contaminants is compliant with the work health & Safety Legislation such as not exceeding the workplace exposure standards (WES).
Air Monitoring Approaches
To identify and/or to quantify airborne contaminants two approaches are available which include:
- Onsite use of direct-reading instruments and/or data logging with time history output
- Collection of air samples on sampling media (eg. filter, sorbent tube, sampling bag) and laboratory analysis of air samples obtained.
Types of Air Monitoring in Workplaces
To assess workers’ exposure to airborne contaminants, there are two types of air monitoring employed in the workplace including:
- Personal exposure monitoring – sampling airborne contaminants within the breathing zone of the operator to estimate their actual exposure and compare with WES
- Area monitoring (static monitoring): to measure the airborne concentration of a contaminant within the area to check if the control measures are effective and if further controls are required.
Common Airborne Contaminants Covered by Air Monitoring and Air Testing
The following are common air contaminants routinely monitored and tested in the workplace and the associated standard sampling and analytical methods:
- Dust monitoring – Inhalable dust, Respirable dust and respirable crystalline silica (Quartz):
- AS 3640-2009 Workplace atmospheres – Method for sampling and gravimetric determination of inhalable dust
- Australian Standard AS 2985-2009 Workplace atmospheres – Method for sampling and gravimetric determination of respirable dust
- NIOSH Method 7603 QUARTZ in coal mine dust, by IR (redeposition)
- Volatile organic compounds (VOC monitoring):
- AS 2986.1-2003 (R2016) Workplace air quality – Sampling and analysis of volatile organic compounds by solvent desorption/gas chromatography Pumped sampling method
- AS 2986.2-2003 (R2016) Workplace air quality – Sampling and anlysis of volatile organic compounds by solvent desorption/gas chromatography Diffusive sampling method
- Monitoring welding fumes, Metals and Gases (carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, ozone, nitrogen oxides):
- AS 3853.1-2006 Health and safety in welding and allied processes – Sampling of airborne particles and gases in the operators breathing zone Sampling of airborne particles
- Asbestos air monitoring:
- Guidance Note on the Membrane Filter Method for Estimating Airborne Asbestos Fibres 2nd Edition [NOHSC: 3003 (2005)]
- Lead air monitoring (Lead dust and fumes):
- AS 4361.2-1998 Guide to lead paint management Residential and commercial buildings
- Isocyanates air monitoring (MDI, NDT, HDI, TDI) – NCO:
- MDHS25/4 Organic isocyanates in air (Health & Safety Executive)
- Diesel particulate matter monitoring (DPM):
- NIOSH5040 Diesel Particulate Matter (as Elemental Carbon)
- Sampling airborne Mould and Bacteria.
Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) Monitoring and Air Testing
Indoor air quality parameters that are usually monitored by direct reading instruments designed with higher sensitivity to measure indoor air include:
- Temperature and relative humidity (RH)
- Carbon monoxide (CO) and Carbon Dioxide (CO2)
- Airborne particulates (PM10, PM5, PM3, PM2.5, PM1)
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC)
- Ozone (O3)
- Biological Contaminants including mould & Legionella
SESA Certified Occupational Hygienists can assist you in all aspects of your air monitoring requirements including a one-off assessment, periodic and annual air monitoring, evaluation of exposure and effectiveness of controls.