Have your employees been complaining about decreasing health and comfort issues while at work? Do the complaints all sound the same? Sick employees cost a business a lot of money so maybe it is time to look into what could be making your employees sick. It could be your building! Sick Building Syndrome is said to exist when at least 20 percent of the employees experience symptoms and their symptoms go away when they aren’t at work.
Symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome May Include:
- Itchy, irritated, dry or watery eyes
- Nasal congestion
- Throat soreness or tightness
- Dry, itchy skin or unexplained rashes
- Headache, lethargy, or difficulty concentrating.
- Acute discomfort (dizziness/nausea) when they are at work
What Causes Sick Building Syndrome
Building ventilation, temperature, humidity, mold and sealed windows all could be factors in your employees feeling sick at work. The indoor air quality (IAQ) has become an important issue in buildings today due to:
- Sealed windows which reduces airflow
- Improper or inadequately maintained heating and ventilation systems.
- Contamination by construction materials, glues, particle boards, paints, chemicals, etc.
- Increase in number of building occupants and time spent indoors.
- Deterioration of fiberglass in ducts
What to do about Sick Building Syndrome
Here is how you should deal with complaints about sick building syndrome. It is an employers responsibility to keep employees safe and ensure your building is not the cause of the problem.
- Bring in a mold inspector to ensure that there is not a mold problem hiding in the walls and in the ventilation.
- Hire the right janitorial cleaners, who use green cleaning products to reduce VOC’s in the building.
- Review the lighting in your building. Florescent lighting that flickers can cause headaches and a general low comfort level at work.
- Evaluate the HVAC, ensure there is adequate airflow and to review the current levels of VOC in the workplace from carpets, paints, and adhesives used throughout the building. Also, outdoor pollutantes may be getting in when they shouldn’t be, such as car exhaust and industrial plants’ air pollutants.
Under Part II of the Canada Labour Code, employers are required to protect the health and safety of employees at work, by ensuring that employee complaints, including refusals to work, and accidents and injuries are properly investigated. But, even if management does not take your health concerns seriously there are agencies that will. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in the US, as well as the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) will be happy to hear from you and follow up with inspections to ensure your safety at work.
For more a complete fact sheet on Sick Building Syndrome visit the US EPA website.