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Investigating indoor air problems and indoor air groups

The City of Helsinki has an established operating model for examining indoor air problems in buildings. The problems are tackled through multi-disciplinary cooperation. Below, we have described briefly how reviewing indoor air problems proceeds through the City’s service structures.

Here we have described briefly how reviewing indoor air problems proceeds through the City’s service structures.

1. Detecting the problem

  • An employee detects a problem in the premises or suspects that the indoor air is causing symptoms.
  • The employee reports this to their supervisor.
  • The supervisor reports this further to the property manager.
  • The employee suffering from the symptoms contacts the occupational healthcare services.

2. Checking the basics

  • The property manager investigates the building together with the building management.
  • If any clear defects are discovered in the investigation, they are rectified. These defects can be related to the level of cleaning or the functionality of ventilation, for example.
  • If no clear cause is discovered, the property manager will contact the Indoor Air Team.
  • If the problem is solved at this stage, the process will end here.

3. Preliminary review

  • An indoor air specialist, the property manager and the location’s supervisor will hold a preliminary review. Sometimes, this visit is enough to solve the problem and no further investigations are needed.
  • The indoor air specialist will order the necessary tests from an consultant. 

4. Investigation

  • The indoor air specialist will provide the investigation consultant with the preliminary information (technical drawings of the site, previous condition assessments and investigation reports, as well as repair history documentation).
  • The consultant will agree with the location’s supervisor on when the investigation will be carried out. If necessary, they or the indoor air specialist will interview the staff representative, maintenance worker and the property manager. An online survey targeted at a wider group of respondents can also be carried out for the site.
  • The consultant will perform the investigation and draw up the report.
  • The indoor air specialist will share the research results with the site’s supervisor and the property manager.
  • The Indoor Air Team will draw up an announcement about the service buildings’ research results and the follow-up measures. The announcement and the condition survey report will be published through the Talotiedot service
  • The site’s supervisor will share the information and announcement they have received with the personnel and the clients, such as the children’s guardians. They will also act as the contact person for the property’s maintenance services.

5. Implementing the repairs

  • When the causes for indoor air problems have been discovered, the next step is to decide how the building will be repaired.
  • When planning the repairs, the plans for monitoring the success of these repairs will also be agreed upon.
  • A notification of the repairs will be drawn up for the users of the premises.

6. Follow-up and ending the process

  • The situation will be monitored as agreed. The users will be notified of further measures.

Roles of other operators in solving indoor air problems

Indoor air issues require management of the issues as a whole as well as cooperation between operators. In addition to the site’s supervisor and technical experts, a wide range of other specialists will take part in resolving indoor air issues.

  • The occupational healthcare services will collect information about symptoms, help with assessing the site’s health-related risks and carry out the indoor air survey for the users if necessary.
  • School healthcare services will collect information about the pupils’ symptoms.
  • The division’s labour protection organisation will contribute to the process by, for example, guiding and consulting others to ensure that the working environment features no factors that would endanger the employees’ health. Labour protection will also take part in operations such as the division’s indoor air group, reviewing the investigation report and information events.
  • Environmental Services will be the health protection authority that carries out monitoring to ensure that apartments, schools, day-care centres and similar facilities do not cause any health hazards as determined in the Health Protection Act and Decree.
  • The most problematic sites can be presented to the division’s indoor air group for processing. The group can agree on matters such as carrying out symptom surveys for the personnel.

Operators taking part in indoor air problem investigations at schools.

Operators taking part in indoor air problem investigations at schools.

Indoor air groups

The City of Helsinki has a City-level Indoor Air Group, whose duties include:

  • developing resolution processes for indoor air problems
  • defining shared operating methods and division of work
  • monitoring the investigations related to indoor air problems and the development of operating methods, and spreading related information.

The group was established in 2007. The Chair of the group is Sari Hildén.

The list of the City-level Indoor Air Group’s other members 

In addition to the City-level Indoor Air Group, the City has division-specific Indoor Air Groups, the purpose of which is to monitor that the resolution processes of sites’ indoor air problems proceed as agreed. The sector-specific Indoor Air Groups are:

the Education Division’s Indoor Air Group (chair Mauno Kemppi)
the Social Services and Health Care Division’s Indoor Air Group (chair Aila Hyvönen)
the Culture and Leisure Division’s Indoor Air Group (chair Markus Terämaa).

21.03.2023 15:27