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March 2009

A Reminder about Indoor Air Quality

I received notice of the upcoming Maine Indoor Air Quality Conference here in Maine and it reminds me of the importance of indoor air quality and the obvious ramifications the air we breathe at work has on our health.

Offices, factories and similar indoor workplaces typically have some type of air handling equipment. Its basic purpose is to provide clean air at a comfortable temperature. Some are very complex while others are simple mechanical ventilation. However, problems can arise when these systems are altered. 

In this economic time, building owners may try to conserve energy by reducing the amount of fresh air added into the building. By recirculating more air, less energy is needed to heat or cool. It also increases the amount of carbon dioxide and other contaminants.

Employees will begin to develop dry, itchy, watery eyes, runny noses, and headaches. These symptoms occur when carbon dioxide levels reach 800 to 1,000 parts per million. Even though this is well below the OSHA permissible exposure limit of 5,000 parts per million, the symptoms and discomfort are very real.

Preventive maintenance of HVAC systems is critical in minimizing indoor air quality issues at any time. If you can, check out the conference. It’s a great opportunity to learn how you can plan and prepare to create a safe, healthy efficient work environment instead.


Task Force Begins Look at Employee Misclassification in Maine

I have reviewed hundreds of construction jobsites over the years. Inevitably, owners ask me what can be done about the illegal use of subcontractors. Specifically, they vent about their competition classifying their employees as subcontractors and thereby sidestepping a number of state regulations. In essence, owners are irate about playing by the rules while the competition does not. These conversations have gotten heated and understandably so. The playing field is not level, and everybody knows it, including many regulators. Yet, nothing has been done. Happily, I can report that this is being addressed in many ways all around the country.

In my home state of Maine, Governor John Baldacci recently enacted an Executive Order, creating a task force to look into this obvious problem. The issue has been discussed by many different groups over a number of years and it looks like finally some corrections may be made. It's too early to tell exactly what will take place or when any changes may be made. But this is certainly a step in the right direction. This isn’t just limited to the employers --  certain rights and coverages will extend to Maine's employees too. If done right, this could definitely be a win-win situation if there ever was one.

The WorkCompCentral newsletter has additional information and some very interesting statistics that form the foundation for the governor's actions. As this process gets underway it's inevitable that interest will be generated. I will keep you updated when information is released.