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Identify and Prevent Sick Building Syndrome In Your Workplace

Posted by Karoline Clarke on Mon, Mar 2, 2020

plane-without-moving-parts-696x392This past Sunday I made flight reservations to fly to Arizona this Sunday.  A warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday, Americans should be prepared for the potential for “significant disruptions” when the corona virus, or COVID-19, spreads in the U.S., made me reconsider my plans for air travel. 

The corona-virus is on our minds as a deadly threat.  Did you know your workplace can possibly be contributing to sicknesses and frequent absenteeism?  If 20% or more of your employees are getting sick, Karoline Clarke provides insights on what you can do to prevent “sick building.”

Symptoms to Look For

“Sick building syndrome” is the term given to various symptoms collectively experienced by occupants or employees of a certain building. If 20% of your employees are experiencing symptoms — including, headaches, watering eyes, dizziness, dry skin and throat, nausea, brain fog, and chronic fatigue — then your workplace building may be declared a “sick building.” If these symptoms clear up in affected workers when they leave the building for prolonged periods, sick building syndrome is the likely culprit. If you suspect sick building syndrome is affecting your workplace, there’s numerous things you can do to tackle the root causes and keep your employees healthy and happy.

Causes of sick building syndrome

There are numerous causes of sick building syndrome employers should look out for. In particular, chemical pollutants from cleaning solutions, carpets, paints, and furniture can emit noxious fumes — including volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and formaldehyde — even years after installation. Poor ventilation is also a huge risk factor, which is enhanced if heating, ventilating, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems aren’t effectively distributing air around the building.

proxyclick-visitor-management-system-l90zRbWvCoE-unsplash (Karoline)Additionally, mold or mildew can negatively affect the air quality and cause sick building syndrome. If mold is detected in your building, it should be removed immediately. Additionally, tests should be conducted to determine the cause of the mold. You can then tackle the mold’s root source to ensure permanent healthy air quality and improve the safety of the building.  

Advice for employers 

If you’re concerned your employees are exhibiting symptoms of sick building symptoms, there are several steps you can take. First, be sure to ask your employees about their symptoms and when they occur. This may reveal obvious causes that need fixing. Next, study the general cleanliness of the building — is it as clean as it should be? Are the vacuum cleaners in good working condition?

Check cleaning solutions are being used and stored correctly. Additionally, you should service your heating, air conditioning, and ventilation systems to ensure there’s about 100 cfm for every 600 to 900 sq. ft. of space. Ventilation systems and grills should be cleaned at least once a year. Workplace humidity should also be between 20-60%

Following these steps should eliminate all cases of sick building syndrome. Be sure to ask your employees if they’re still experiencing symptoms. If signs of sick building syndrome are still present, you’ll need to contact a building services engineer to conduct a more thorough investigation. 

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role-playingNEXT BLOG – Why Role-Playing Fails Work

My professional career started in sales out of college.  One of the most challenging, and difficult aspects of learning to sell was the often grueling and debilitating practice of role playing we often did as part of our training to improve our sales ability.  Role playing can be valuable for training, whether sales or customer service.  There’s a key to making it palpable and a positive learning experience for your people.  We’ll share this practice next blog.  

Topics: Employee retention, Karoline Clarke, Office Environment, Employee Wellbeing

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The Strategic Discipline Blog focuses on midsize business owners with a ravenous appetite to improve his or her leadership skills and business results.

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