Person looking out window in Apotex building.

Building safety

Indoor air quality

Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) refers to the air quality within and around buildings and structures, especially as it relates to the health and comfort of building occupants. Ventilation and IAQ are closely related, as the ventilation systems of a building play a direct role in supplying air to the building occupants. The UM Physical Plant department operates and maintains the ventilation systems with a goal of meeting or exceeding ANSI/ASHRAE Standard 62.1 Ventilation and Acceptable Indoor Air Quality.

As good IAQ helps to provide a safe environment to work and learn, EHSO has an IAQ program which includes IAQ monitoring. The intent of the periodic monitoring is to proactively identify and address any potential required changes or updates to maintain good IAQ according to the indicators being measured. EHSO conducts IAQ testing of a representative sample of spaces for all UM facilities. The results obtained from this testing and monitoring program guide decisions made between EHSO and Physical Plant for the safety of our campus.

If you have questions or concerns about the indoor air quality in your workspace, contact EHSO and we will connect with you to investigate. These investigations are in addition to the regular IAQ program and its associated testing and monitoring.

Reporting odour concerns

Odours may be harmless such as those caused by a dry sewer line or construction activities but may still pose a nuisance or irritation to those in the vicinity. EHSO can help to assess the situation and identify any potential sources and if there is any concern for a hazardous condition.

Contact EHSO to report a concern and be prepared to answer the following questions:

  • Can you describe the smell?
  • How strong or potent is the odour?
  • Are you or other employees experiencing health symptoms?
  • Where is the potential source of the smell and how far does it reach?
  • When did the smell first appear and is it intermittent or continuous?

EHSO will be able to investigate your concern and provide support in finding a solution.

Note: If you smell an odour that is an indicator of an emergency event (such as smoke from a fire), please follow emergency measures and notify Security Services immediately by phone at 204-474-9341

Scents in the workplace

Scents in the workplace are the smells and odours in our air caused by foods, cosmetics, cleaners, and other chemicals. The chemicals used in scented products can negatively affect some people, especially those with chemical or environmental sensitivities, asthma, allergies and other medical conditions.

Environmental sensitivities are considered chronic conditions where a person experiences symptoms when exposed to certain chemicals or other environmental agents at low levels that are tolerated by most people. Symptoms may range in severity from mild to debilitating and can vary. Some of the symptoms typically reported due to scents in the workplace can include: headaches, nausea, fatigue, skin irritation, and respiratory issues, among others.

The UM advises workers and visitors to be respectful of the needs of others and to assist in the accommodation of employees with chemical or environmental sensitivities. If you require a medical accommodation, please contact Employee Wellness for assistance.

Asbestos management

Asbestos was commonly used in building materials before 1990. It was used because of its resistance to heat and fire, its strength, its resistance to chemical and biological break-down, and its insulating properties. Asbestos is known to cause health effects when it is disturbed or made friable but is no risk to someone’s health when it remains intact.

Physical Plant maintains the Asbestos Management Program at the UM. The program has been established to meet the requirements of Part 37 of the Manitoba Workplace Safety and Health Regulation 217/2006 by preventing asbestos-containing material from becoming airborne and protecting the health and safety of any worker from any airborne exposure to the hazard.

Lead in building materials

Lead can be found in building materials in Canada such as interior paints (typically prior to 1960) and exterior paints (prior to 1990). If materials painted with lead-based paint are in good condition, the risk is minimal. If there is cracking, chipping or peeling of the paint, it must be identified and corrective actions to safely remove or cover the paint will occur. Please contact the Physical Plant Customer Service Centre to identify any spaces you are concerned may contain this hazard.

Polychlorinated biphenyls in building materials

Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) were first manufactured in 1929 and were included for decades in ceiling and caulking compounds and as a paint additive. Although they were banned in 1977, they can be found in some old building materials as well as in some electrical equipment. The Environmental Health and Safety Office and the Physical Plant Health & Safety department work together to ensure any identified PCBs are handled and disposed of appropriately to prevent any exposure to the UM Community.

Mould program

Through its Mould Program the UM actively conducts activities to prevent the growth of mould by drying areas of moisture or water damage (e.g. post flooding and leaks in pipes) and keeping humidity levels down. When mould is suspected to be present due to environmental factors, there are symptoms of mould exposure, or a physical appearance of mould growth, the area is tested and any mould is safely removed. If you have a concern for mould growth in your work area, contact EHSO


As an employer, the UM is required to provide sufficient lighting for the work tasks performed, including a minimum of five decalux in all spaces a worker would enter. There is also a requirement for emergency lighting that operates in place of the standard lighting in case of disruption. The emergency lighting must allow for safe exit from a workspace.

If you have any concerns for the lighting in your workspace, contact EHSO and a member of EHSO will connect with you to investigate further.

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Contact us

Environmental Health and Safety
Room 191 Extended Education Complex
406 University Crescent
University of Manitoba (Fort Garry campus)
Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2 Canada

P310 Pathology Building
770 Bannatyne Avenue
University of Manitoba (Bannatyne Campus)