The Connection Between Air Quality and Productivity

Inhalable dusts and weld fumes are a common challenge in manufacturing. While manufacturers know that they must control these contaminants in order to protect workers' health and to comply with regulations, the reasons extend beyond these factors. Poor air quality can have a real impact on both day-to-day productivity, hiring and retention.

Studies have demonstrated the connection between air quality and productivity. Improving air quality has been linked to reduced error rates, increased output and a significant reduction in absenteeism. A study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found a 4.2% improvement in worker productivity when indoor air pollution levels were reduced by 10 ppb. Another study found that indoor air quality has been shown to significantly affect worker productivity and product quality in factories. Poor indoor air quality causes six additional lost workdays per year for every ten employees. Healthcare expenses and lost productivity due to poor air quality in the workplace could add up to tens of billions of dollars each year, according to the EPA.

Productivity is damaged when absenteeism spikes or recruitment falls short, as well. Indoor air quality is a factor when young workers make job decisions. Workers understand the effects of dust and welding fumes on their health, and they don't want to take any chances. Nor do they need to—their skills are currently much in demand. The need to take care of highly skilled workers is profound. These workers are simply more productive than their less experienced or well-trained counterparts.

The return on investment for improving air quality, in terms of productivity, is well documented. Studies have shown the payoff can come in as little as two years. In short, taking measures to improve indoor air quality makes good economic sense.

The Widespread Effects of Health-related Absenteeism

The negative health impacts of dust and weld fumes are well known. These include irritation to the eyes, nose, and throat, respiratory ailments and more. Less discussed is the harmful effect poor air quality has on worker absenteeism. Indeed, health-related absenteeism is a serious cost to the manufacturing sector every year.

Of course the best reason to maintain good air quality is to protect your workers. The harmful effects of poor air quality are both unpleasant and burdensome. Treatment is both expensive and time consuming. No worker should have to suffer or be rendered incapable of doing his or her job. In addition, these harmful effects from airborne contaminants have multiplying effects when we see how they affect a worker's family and the employer's operations. Health-related absenteeism is an ongoing challenge for manufacturers.

Fortunately, an improvement in indoor air quality has been shown to reduce absenteeism and other harmful effects of exposure to dirty air. Implementing a comprehensive dust or weld fume collection system removes those harmful contaminants from the air. A collector such as RoboVent's Senturion Series system delivers guaranteed reductions in airborne contaminants. RoboVent's powerful blowers and cutting-edge filter designs lead the industry in cleaning the air of manufacturing facilities, from the automotive industry to heavy manufacturing.

The Role of Air Quality in Recruitment

In recent years, manufacturing has been expanding. After years of industrial decline, re-shoring—or bringing manufacturing jobs back to U.S. communities—is finally happening. Manufacturers are finding the advantage of having suppliers close to home. Technology has brought costs down, as well. All of these factors have made domestic production cost competitive with cheap overseas labor. While this is great news by any measure, the recruitment implications for personnel departments are serious.

Industry is currently seeing a shortage of new workers. As Baby Boomers retire, a new generation is needed to replace them. But personnel departments are having a difficult time recruiting for those positions. The problem is likely to get worse—for example, the American Welding Society estimates a shortfall of 290,000 skilled welders by 2020. Young people are not drawn to manufacturing as they were in the past. A serious skills gap has appeared, making hiring an even more difficult challenge.

Successful recruitment campaigns have become a high priority for manufacturers in today's economy. To make their best case, employers need to improve working conditions within their facilities. Many young people starting their careers today are choosing to enter the service industry, where they don't have to put up with a dirty, unhealthy or unsafe workplace. An attractive job—one that will lead to a successful recruitment—needs to have clean air and a safe environment.

Keeping Workers Through Cleaner Air

Today's upsurge in manufacturing means production lines are running fast. To keep these lines moving, everything has to go just right—the supply chain, the equipment and the labor force must be reliable. Suddenly, personnel departments have a renewed focus on recruitment and retention.

In today's economy, skilled welders have options. If they don't like their current work environment, they can vote with their feet. Workers no longer need to stay in a job that might threaten their health. Today's workers are educated, and they understand that poor air quality carries both short-term and long-term dangers, in addition to its immediate unpleasantness. It's very possible there are better job offers down the road.

Fortunately, studies have demonstrated that improving air quality leads to improvements in these personnel issues. Recruitment and retention efforts both benefit from clean air. When employee retention improves, hiring and training costs fall.