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Indoor Air Quality Guideline

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City of Portland - City Risk Guideline for Monitoring and Managing Office Indoor Air Quality


The City of Portland is self-insured for Workers’ Compensation coverage.  The Office of Management and Finance (OMF) Risk Management (City Risk) manages the self-insurance program and fund. The City maintains loss prevention services under Oregon statute and rule.  The City complies with Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards related to Industrial Hygiene (IH). Industrial Hygiene addresses health and safety hazards at work caused by a wide range of chemical, physical or biologic factors.

One area of IH focus is the Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) of a work area. Industrial settings may produce chemical, physical or biologic hazards. These must be abated or controlled. In offices, air quality can be affected by gases, particulates or microbes. They are introduced by occupants or building systems.  Common sources include water damaged building materials, mold, chemicals, odors, and building ventilation.

Employees in offices may report concerns similar to common illness. These may include mucous membrane and/or respiratory irritation, headache, or fatigue; itching, redness, and irritation of the eyes; nasal congestion; coughing/runny nose; dryness and irritation of the throat.


Owned or leased office type space provide City of Portland employees an indoor environment that is:

  • safe
  • comfortable
  • free from contaminants or conditions that may lead to adverse health impacts



The IAQ guideline applies City-wide.  It describes current community best practice to address IAQ concerns in office work areas.



1)      Employees should be encouraged to report IAQ concerns through supervisors, managers or bureau safety representatives. Concerns often relate to temperature, dryness or odors.

2)      Supervisors and managers complete the IAQ Concern Form

  •     Ask employees to describe their symptoms.
  •     Are many employees ill, but no source is obvious?
  •     Is there an offending condition but no one is ill?
  •     Is the problem temperature, humidity, “stuffiness’, odor?
  •     Is there an offending condition and a number of employees are ill?
  •     Supervisors and managers are responsible for communication within the bureau.

3)      Promptly check for obvious sources of discomfort or concern.

  •    Supervisors may be able to quickly find and control the problem.
  •    Keep the phone number for the building facilities manager handy. Learn about their IAQ reporting process.

      In buildings managed by OMF Facilities:

  •       Report uncomfortable temperatures, ventilation, unexplained odors, or other concerns to Facilities Services dispatch office at 503-823-5252.
  •       The reporting supervisor/manager must complete and submit the IAQ Concern Form  to OMF Facilities Services at or the building facility manager.
  •       OMF Facilities Services will contact the reporting supervisor/manager. They may ask for more information about the problem.
  •       Facilities will get back to the supervisor/manager with a proposed course of action. They may consult with City Risk, as needed.



1)      Identify and eliminate the source of odors

a)      Promptly contain and clean up any spill or leak identified as the source of the odor.

i)        Contact the building facilities manager for clean up if needed.

b)      Building occupants’ activities is often the source of odors (e.g. cooking, perishable food being left in desks or in the trash, employees using excessive amounts of air fresheners, cleaners, perfume, etc.)

i)        The supervisor/manager should stop the activity. These are nuisance odors. While unpleasant to some, they are not an indoor air quality hazard. In very rare instances, some employees may have a health condition that makes them more sensitive. Contact BHR for assistance.

ii)       Check for: rotting food; old garbage, compost or trash; moldy soil in potted plants; chemical (including cleaning products) spills or leaks; growth in water features or humidifiers; dry traps in plumbing; dead animals or decaying leaves or debris near air intakes or in duct systems; idling vehicles near air intakes, windows or doors;  water damage to ceiling tiles, walls, carpets, cabinets or supplies; check recently shampooed carpets under file cabinets, equipment, chair mats or boxes.

c)       Check for a new or unusual activity in or around the building. This may be maintenance, repair, remodeling.

2)      Check the functioning of the HVAC for the building. 

a)      Check filters, fresh air supply, air intakes, air movement, room exchanges, etc.

b)      Building Managers will have an IAQ HVAC checklist they will run through depending on the complaint and source.

3)      Check around the building for a possible source outside the building.

4)      If no source is found and the building systems are operating as expected, and complaints persist, it may be necessary to conduct air sampling. This is usually the last step in addressing IAQ issues.

a)      Building Facilities Managers may initiate an IAQ assessment through the City Risk on-call IH contracts. Managers are responsible for communication within their bureau.

b)      City Risk will provide technical consultation to the Facilities Manager on the project.

c)       Learn more about the IH program .

d)      Cost for vendor services are typically at the requesting bureau’s expense.



1)      If employees are acutely ill and in need of urgent medical treatment, activate the bureau’s Emergency Medical Plan.

2)      If employees seek medical treatment and a hazard is identified, workers’ compensation claim information is available at the following website:

3)      The worker’s compensation team can be reached at


1)      Interviews with employees.

2)      Observations of the facility; heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) review; potential indoor and outdoor sources of IAQ problems; microbial contamination; etc.

3)      Analytical monitoring with a written report.

4)      IAQ assessments are typically terminated when, in the professional opinion of Facilities Services and City Risk staff, all reasonable efforts to identify and correct problems have been undertaken.


This will be a decision made by Management. Factors to consider: number of people unable to perform work duties due to significant complaints or conditions (odor, temperature) at the same time; the nature of the identified source (some contaminants do not have a detectible odor); the history of the building and the work unit.

Managers should be familiar with products or chemicals used in their buildings. OSHA requires all employees need to be trained in Hazard Communication.

Employees should not be required to remain in the building. Managers should address their concerns and permit use of available leave.



  • Keep work areas clean and free of perishable food. Do not introduce unapproved chemicals,  air fresheners or cleaning products into the building
  • Report IAQ related concerns to management
  • Assist  Facilities Services, City Risk, and consultants in addressing the concern


Supervisors/Managers/Bureau Safety Representatives

  • Follow the IAQ reporting procedures
  • Know type,  location and responsible party for chemical products used in the building.     
  • Assure all employees complete Hazard Communication training.
  • Act as, or designate, an on-site contact to work with Facilities Services, City Risk, and consultants
  • Communicate  information to staff on the status of the investigation, results of  sampling performed, and corrective actions taken


Facilities Services (or other building facility manager)

  • Create work orders  and assign appropriate staff
  • Promptly perform an initial assessment of the HVAC system in the reported area of concern;  see Attachment B, IAQ HVAC Checklist
    • Check HVAC controls/components to ensure they are set and operating appropriately
    • Look for sources  of water leaks into the building
    • Look for  vehicle exhaust entrainment into the building, open chemical products,  other potential sources
    • Check the HVAC air supply to ensure adequate fresh air enters occupied spaces and make any adjustments or repairs
  • Communicate  findings and provide a written report of findings and any repairs made to the reporting supervisor/manager
  • If HVAC is  operating appropriately or adjustments/repairs do not provide the desired  comfort in the area, consult with City Risk
  • Support Contract   IH consultants when they perform an IAQ assessment

City Risk

  • Provide  technical consultation to bureaus and Facilities Services on IAQ concerns
  • Assist with  coordination of IAQ assessments and the use of the on-call IH contracts


Related City programs and policies include the following: