Sick building syndrome in your office

Far from being the health myth that many take it as Sick building syndrome is a very real, as well as a potentially serious, phenomenon. Not only can it affect your staff’s health, but it can also hit your staff sick day rates, as well as the overall productivity levels of your business.

Symptoms: Could your staff be suffering the effects of Sick building syndrome?

The symptoms of Sick building syndrome (SBS) are both far and wide ranging, each of which may be experienced singularly, or with a combination of any number of other symptoms, including the following:

  • Headaches;
  • Nausea;
  • General aches and pains;
  • An inability to concentrate;
  • Shortness of breath and respiratory issues;
  • Eye and throat irritation;
  • Blocked nose;
  • Skin irritation.

Most notably any symptoms that are experienced due to SBS are often only suffered for the duration of the working day, with symptoms either disappearing or improving once the person has left the building.

SBS: Just what causes such an array of symptoms?

SBS remains an incredibly poorly understood phenomenon and whilst there are growing bodies of research, scientists are yet to come to a conclusion as to a single cause. Because of this it’s perhaps of far more help to look at those who are most commonly affected by SBS, from which we can draw wide conclusions as to just what may be behind such an elusive condition.

Taking a look at the suffers of SBS

Whilst SBS can be experienced by any person, within any environment, research has consistently found that it is office staff who are found within buildings lacking open windows that instead have ventilation systems that are prone to suffer from SBS.

Perhaps more surprisingly however is the fact that SBS symptoms are usually more frequent within workplaces where computers are used (which could be a case of the perfect storm, as desks serve as the ideal breeding ground for bacteria, as we recently wrote about in our article: Microbiological levels in the workplace.

Overcoming SBS: Considering risk factors for the condition

In a bid to overcome SBS you can draw upon the widely identified and understood risk factors that correlate to cases of SBS. In this respect you can attempt to drive down the risks of SBS

  • Lack of ventilation (particularly when cleaning);
  • Low humidity;
  • Warm environments, or temperatures that fluctuate during the day;
  • High levels of airborne particles (including dust and fibres);
  • High levels of airborne pollutants (including those from cleaning materials);
  • Lack of proper cleaning standards;
  • Dim lighting that may flicker, or that may glare back from computer screens.

Taking steps beyond risk factors

If you believe that your staff may be suffering from the effects of SBS the following steps can help you assess, and address, the situation:

  1. Undertake a fact collection exercise to discover whether any of your employees are suffering from the symptom that we’ve listed in this guide.
  2. Overhaul the cleanliness of your building – including a check upon vacuum cleaners and whether they may be being used when full (and therefore spreading around dust and particles, rather than cleaning).
  3. Ensure that your workplace has a solid clearing routine in place, and that the right materials and chemicals are being used for the right jobs.
  4. Check whether your ventilation or air condition systems are working and delivering controlled temperatures throughout the day. These should also ensure that the humidity throughout your workplace is between 40% and 70% (as recommended by the Health and Safety Executive).
  5. Ensure that your ventilation and air conditioning systems are in good working order and are running to comprehensive maintenance schedules.

Whilst scientists continue to research, study and debate the causes that contribute to SBS one thing is for certain: poorly maintained and unhygienic ventilation systems overwhelmingly appear within workplaces where SBS is in action.

At Ductbusters our clients are routinely shocked at the results of our Ventilation risk assessments, where the true levels of bacteria are analysed and identified within our laboratory; results that often serve as a potential cause for SBS.

Contact us today for a comprehensive ventilation overhaul or assessment.

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