When workers in your office complain of respiratory symptoms and general malaise, you may assume that they have picked up some kind of infection. However, if more than 20 percent of your workforce develops symptoms, then it may in fact be your building that is sick. Sick building syndrome is a term given to properties that cause people to feel unwell during the time they spend in the building, with symptoms usually disappearing when workers go on vacation or spend time at home. Here are some ways to recognise the signs of sick building syndrome, as well as advice on what to do about it.
Symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome
People who work in a sick building often complain of the following symptoms:
Eye, nose and throat irritation
Dry, itchy skin
Trouble concentrating on work
Typically, these symptoms affect a significant fraction of the workforce and appear only while people are at work. People who have these symptoms all the time, even when they are at home or on vacation, may be suffering from a medical condition rather than being negatively affected by your office building.
Over time, working in a sick building could increase the risk of lung diseases and even cancer. If you suspect that your office building is harming your workers, it's vital to take action to improve the indoor air quality.
How Big is the Problem?
According to the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, poor air quality in Australian buildings could lead to costs of $12 billion dollars per year. The symptoms caused by poor indoor air quality can make workers less productive, costing your company money every day that you fail to address the problem.
What Causes Sick Building Syndrome?
Harmful building materials, such as asbestos and formaldehyde, may contribute to sick building syndrome. In buildings with poor ventilation, the concentrations of these chemicals can build up to very high levels. Respiratory symptoms can also result from breathing in excessive amounts of dust, carbon monoxide and mold, which can be present in dangerous amounts in the air inside poorly ventilated buildings.
How to Cure Your Sick Building
If you think your office space could be making your workers sick, consult an air quality consulting service as soon as possible. Professional air quality services can identify the particles that are contaminating the air inside your office and recommend solutions to improve the situation. These solutions may include repairing or replacing your existing ventilation system with one that is better able to filter contaminants out of the air and draw fresh air in from outside.
For more information, contact an air quality company in your area.