Years ago, I was responsible for quality control (QC) of our facility manager’s performance of outsourced building management services, and I did part of my QC responsibilities by completing walking tours of the equipment rooms. We titled the approach a quality control assurance process (QCAP), and I would complete building tours of each facility we managed, which covered around 24 million square feet at that time. It was that process that got me to thinking about writing this column and the previous two month’s columns. This, a tour of an air-handling room, is the last of the three QC equipment room walking tours.

This tour can occur annually or semi-annually to raise awareness of the importance of what is happening within these walls. It can also be a training tour to remind the workers of the documents within this equipment room. It’s important to note that if the reader is a design engineer, he or she should take note of the comments herein as “lessons learned” about maintaining a clean, well-ventilated, and safe space.


Walking toward the air-handling room, one should take note of the following:

  1. Is this room below grade? Should there be emergency plans documenting what to do in case of a flood?

  2. Is this below-grade or at-grade fan room getting its outdoor air intake in the vicinity of parked vehicles? Intakes should be high enough to not draw toxic fumes into the louver.

  3. Are there general exhaust or more toxic exhaust air being discharged within the area of the air-handling room intake louvers — especially penthouse fan rooms?


First Impressions:

  1. Are the floors clean, painted, and equipped with yellow-and-black striped safety tape/paint to warn the walker of a tripping hazard, step up or down, or overhead hazard?

  2. Are the surfaces free of dust and the floors free of all debris?

  3. Are there two or more means of egress especially chiller rooms below grade?

  4. Does the fan room have adequate lighting throughout the space?

  5. Is there adequate room ventilation?


Things to look for:

  1. Walking around the air-handling room, are all the panels clearly labeled and their access doors able to be open 100 percent?

  2. Are there sheet metal panels with or without viewing windows to access equipment inside the ductwork e.g., fire dampers or humidifier manifolds?

  3. Are all the sheet metal distribution systems clearly labeled along with a direction-of-flow arrow to assist the operator?

  4. Are the AHU flexible connections sealed airtight or are there supply air leaks?

  5. Do all the belt-driven fan motors have fan guards?

  6. Are walls, the floor, and ceilings sealed to maintain the fire enclosure rating?

  7. Do the openings to below have a watertight curbing around the opening to prevent water from leaking to the floor(s) below?

  8. Are there safety rails around shaft openings to below?

  9. Is there adequate lighting for walking around the horizontal and vertical ductwork and to highlight potential bumping or tripping hazards?

  10. Do the corners of sheet metal bracing and bottom of hanger rods have padding to prevent a cutting hazard?

  11. Is there task lighting where needed at the communication center bulletin board to easily read documents, system flow diagrams, emergency contact lists, etc.?

  12. Are the required ducts insulated completely, or are there sections requiring insulation repair?

  13. Are there any ductwork air leaks requiring duct sealant?

  14. Are there emergency eye wash spray bottles strategically located for quick emergency use with associated safety instructions and emergency phone number(s)?

  15. Do “bag in, bag out” filter units have safety instructions on the filter casings?

  16. At the communication center panel board, is the required personal protection equipment (PPE), such as safety glasses, hearing protection plugs, etc., readily available?

The operations manager, as well as the safety officer, should use the above information as well as other instructions to routinely schedule training sessions and maintain a record of date, who attended, and what was discussed to keep training and safety records of boiler room operation current.