Workshop aids in bringing clean air to old buildings
By DEBORAH A. MILES
A hot topic – indoor air quality and mold contamination – drew dozens of PEF
members to Helen Hayes Hospital in Rockland County for a two-day workshop in
The training on how to investigate and solve indoor-air quality problems was
open to PEF and management representatives as well as building-related
“Understanding the fundamentals of indoor-air quality can assist in the timely
identification and resolutions of these problems,” said Kathy D’Arminio, PEF
chair of the statewide Health and Safety Committee. “Workshops bring together
professionals who understand the problems and help create a network of
communication for the participants to solve them.”
The program was conducted by John Tiffany, an industrial hygienist, and Howard
Bader, a building engineer.
member Joice Charles, an infection-control nurse at Bronx Children’s Psychiatric
Center, said a co-worker once complained about indoor-air quality, but the
building was checked and the complaint was unfounded.
She said the workshop provided an opportunity to interact with others who do
have problems, and to learn how to prevent or solve them.
“That discussion was enlightening. It made you realize what to look for in your
own building,” Charles said.
“One of the biggest fascinations for me was learning how piping systems, cooling
towers and catch basins contribute to indoor-air quality. When there’s a
complaint, these are the areas to investigate. If they collect up to a foot of
water, collection basins, for example, can be an ideal petri dish for legionella
to proliferate. That can cause Legionnaires’ Disease.
“People need to avail themselves of workshops and opportunities like this,”
Charles said. “They keep us alert on what is happening out there, and to things
we might not be mindful of otherwise. In the long run, the workshops offer
information to make life better.”
member Frank Lindner, a vocational rehabilitation counselor at the state
Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities who
represents the Hauppauge and Riverhead offices, said the workshop brought to
light many common-sense things people can do to improve indoor-air quality.
“It’s important to identify signs, such as moisture forming in the vents,”
Lindner said. “There are little things people can do, such as not stacking boxes
One of the most valuable things the workshop offered was a reminder to be honest
and up front.
“If an employee starts to feel sickly at work, he should bring it to the
attention of management and a union representative,” Lindner said. “A ‘sick’
building can start with one person and then affect many. Employees need to know
the protocol – whom to contact to check out air quality, address the problem,
and resolve it.”
The conference also covered how to control sources of pollutants, the
distribution of contaminants and remediation solutions.
The program was funded by a state Department of Labor Occupational Safety and
Health Training grant awarded to PEF and was sponsored by PEF, the Governor’s
Office of Employee Relations and the University of Binghamton.