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What Employers Should Know About Sick Building Syndrome
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The most important asset of any company is its people. No matter how financially strong or technologically capable a company is, its success is largely dependent on how well or how poorly its people perform. Thus, any company should pay attention to any factors that could hamper an employee's work performance and productivity. One factor that should be taken seriously by any employer is the workplace condition, specifically workplace air quality. Numerous studies have highlighted the adverse effects that poor workplace air quality can have on an employee's productivity.
Overview of Sick Building Syndrome
Sick building syndrome refers to a group of acute health problems attributed to staying inside a building for a prolonged or regular period of time. Unlike other health conditions, these health problems are not linked with any specific scientific or medical cause. The trigger to these conditions could be exclusive to a particular zone or room within the building or could be widespread throughout the vicinity. Industrial design experts usually associate these health problems to the inconsistency between the building's design and best practice design principles, leading to poor indoor air quality.
Effects of Sick Building Syndrome
In general, sick building syndrome results in acute discomfort when the person stays inside the specific area or building. Symptoms of sick building syndrome include dizziness and nausea, headaches and migraines, itchiness of the skin, lack of concentration and increased sensitivity to odors. Nevertheless, these symptoms no longer bother the person involved when he/she leaves the premises. From an employer’s point of view, the discomfort employees experience when at work can significantly decrease productivity, increase absenteeism or lead to higher employee turnover.
Causes of Sick Building Syndrome
Certain conditions inside a workplace could trigger the development of sick building syndrome. Pollution from external sources can be a major contributor. These include motor vehicle exhausts, building exhausts and by-products of combustion. Indoor sources, especially volatile organic compounds from manufactured wood products, cleaning agents and adhesives, could also be a trigger to sick building syndrome. Workplaces involving high amounts of chemicals are also top candidates. Sick building syndrome can also be attributed to biological contaminants such as bacteria and fungi. Inadequate ventilation exacerbates these issues.
Solutions for Sick Building Syndrome
Every company has to be committed to protecting its business and its people from the threat of sick building syndrome. Companies should allocate a specific room for smoking or ban it altogether. For companies with buildings that are still in the design phase, it would be best to ensure that contaminant source emissions are vented outdoors. HVAC systems should be correctly installed and routinely maintained. Likewise, personnel handling the building operations should be given proper education and awareness. Periodic testing of indoor air with air quality monitoring equipment is recommended. In fact it is increasingly being mandated under new indoor air quality regulations.
Some companies fail to take into consideration the indoor air quality during the design and construction of their work buildings. They may assume that installing an indoor air monitor is an unnecessary expense. Nevertheless, employers should note that the consequences might compromise the entire business.
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