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Warning: Your employees could be suffering from 'Sick Building Syndrome'?

by , 05 March 2013
If your employees complain about headaches; eye, nose, and throat irritation; a dry cough; itchy skin; dizziness, nausea; lapses in concentration and fatigue - they could be suffering from Sick Building Syndrome, reports The Health and Safety Advisor. Read on to discover what you need to know about Sick Building Syndrome as well as the easy steps you can take to alleviate it.

You may not realise this, but the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) covers everything from fires, floods and emergencies to workplace environmental factors like ventilation, space planning and cleanliness.

And it's this second function of the OHSA that's crucial to understand when it comes to protecting your employees from developing Sick Building Syndrome.

According to findings by the World Health Organisation, one in five buildings in the Western Hemisphere are subjected to Sick Building Syndrome.

While no statistics are available for Sick Building Syndrome in South Africa, one in five should be enough to make you sit up and take note of this new workplace health risk.

What is Sick Building Syndrome?

'Sick Building Syndrome is a condition where occupants of a building, area, room or work area experience acute health effects that seem to be related to the time spent in the particular work area or building,' explains the Health and Safety Advisor.

'Anyone can be affected by Sick Building Syndrome, but office workers in modern buildings without opening windows and with mechanical ventilation or air conditioning are most at risk. This risk increases if they are employed in routine work that involves using display screen equipment,' adds the NHS.

Other common causes include:

  • Low humidity
  • Constant temperature changes throughout the day
  • Airborne particles, such as dust, carpet fibres or fungal spores

How to protect your employees from Sick Building Syndrome

If you suspect employees are suffering from Sick Building Syndrome, take the following steps to curb it, advises the Health and Safety Advisor. Get your health and safety representative (HSE rep) to check:

  • The general cleanliness of your building, including checking that the vacuum cleaners are working properly, that they are regularly emptied and their filters are clean.
  • Your company's heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system work properly. 'In particular, the system that supplies fresh air should be checked,' adds the NHS.
  • The condition and cleanliness of air filters, humidifiers, de-humidifiers and cooling towers.

If your office suffers from Sick Building Syndrome, the health of as many as 30% of your employees could be under threat by this epidemic. Don't let this happen to your workforce.

So what are you waiting for?

Enforce these health and safety measures today to prevent Sick Building Syndrome from putting your employees' health in danger.

Turn to your Health and Safety Advisor to read about the hazards that can cause Sick Building Syndrome in your office. 


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