Odour Complaints and How to Respond Objectively?

Odour Complaints and how to respond Objectively

Odour complaints come in two forms. The first is complaints directly from people in the community including neighbours / local residents and / or local businesses.

This is often the first stage of a complaint. It represents an opportunity to address the problem early so it does not escalate and cause further annoyance.  

The second is when a company’s response to the odour problem isn’t sufficient, the local council can get involved and serve an abatement notice. This could require whoever’s responsible to take steps to resolve the problem, stop the activity, or limit the activity to certain times.

It’s important to have an effective and transparent procedure for handling complaints. This will ensure complaints are handled quickly and appropriately.

Responding to odour complaints is one of the trickiest aspects of complaint handling because people expect a reasonable response. They want a solution. Here are some tips on how to respond to complaints objectively:

Validating complaints

Upon receiving a complaint, you should log and acknowledge the complaint. This is an opportunity to show the complainant you are doing something about it. It’s good practice to respond in writing but email or telephone is fine too.

When to investigate

Some companies only respond to complaints when two or more complaints are logged describing the same problem.

This helps validate if there is an issue, but it’s only satisfactory for minor complaints. You also run the risk of causing great annoyance if you take too long.

It can be prudent to investigate single odour complaints if they are serious enough. For example, sewage odour complaints could be a sign of a serious problem like a broken sewer or vent stack. In these situations, investigations should be hurried.

Investigations sometimes need to be immediate. A good example is complaints involving the smell of gas.

Use your expertise to determine when an odour complaint should trigger an immediate investigation or when a volume approach is best.

Investigating complaints

Odour complaints demand action if you intend to resolve the problem. This can only be achieved by investigating the complaint. The complaint should be assigned to designated personnel for investigation and resolution.

Odour complaints can be investigated in several ways:

  • Sniff tests – conducted in person by trained personnel.
  • Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GC/MS) – identifies odorous compounds in off-gases.
  • Data loggers – most often used to detect Hydrogen Sulphide (H2S) emissions but can also detect CO, SO2, NO, NO2, NH3, HCN and Cl2.
  • Olfactometry – Collect samples and analyses in an accredited laboratory. Based on collected data, you will be able to decide whether a complaint warrants process resolution, whether it will disappear on its own, or whether further investigation is warranted to get to the bottom of the problem.

Resolving complaints

Resolving Odour complaints

Once you have a clear picture of the cause of the odour nuisances you can come up with solutions. These could include:

  • Repair or replace damaged equipment.
  • Installing covers over problem plant.
  • Venting gases further away from people.
  • Limiting activity to certain times.
  • Stopping activity.
  • Installing odour control equipment.
  • Servicing odour control equipment.
  • Upgrading odour control equipment and processes.

Some complaints will have simple fixes while others will require investment.

What’s most important is you take accountability for complaints and try to resolve them. Communicating with complainants throughout this process is also key. The last thing you want is your local council to serve you an abatement notice.  

If you are on the receiving end of odour complaints and you are struggling to resolve the problem, we can help. Speak to one of our odour control experts today about how we can help you by calling (0) 1543 506855.