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If your business is suffering because of staff taking too much time off work, don’t assume that they’re all taking duvet days – your office could be affected by sick building syndrome.

What is Sick Building Syndrome?

The term sick building syndrome has been around since the 1980’s when scientists started to look into why multiple instances of sickness were taking place within office environments. In the mid 1980’s the World Health Organisation reported that up to 30% of new or remodelled buildings could be responsible for causing sickness amongst staff.

Why does Sick Building Syndrome happen?

Sick building syndrome has been linked to poor air quality in new or remodelled buildings. Before people started to see SBS as a genuine threat to workforces, new buildings were not designed to circulate air effectively. This meant that over time stale air built up within buildings, spreading germs and increasing the amount of toxins, chemicals, pollens and biological contaminants in the atmosphere.

What are the Symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome?

It’s hard to pin down exact symptoms for SBS because different people can be affected by it in different ways. In general, many workers report sore or itchy eyes, skin irritation, throat and nose irritation and general ill health. When an office space is suffering from SBS workers may report varying illnesses and reactions which do not appear to be connected, so the best way to detect the problem is to look for an increase in the number of staff taking days off sick or reporting feeling unwell.

How can I prevent Sick Building Syndrome?

The main cause of SBS is poor ventilation or flaws in heating or air conditioning systems. The best way to ensure that your building is properly ventilated and that fresh, clean air is being circulated is to have your air conditioning regularly maintained. If you don’t have air conditioning then you can have it installed complete with pumps and air filters that will help purify the atmosphere. Most buildings which were built within the last ten years will adhere to certain ‘green’ rules, meaning that they will have adequate ventilation.

In addition to ensuring that all heating or air conditioning systems are regularly maintained, you should also remove any mould or algae from roof shingles, replace any ceiling tiles or flooring that appears to be water stained, don’t carry out any decorating or maintenance whilst staff are in the building and ensure that regular vacuuming, cleaning and dusting is carried out.

Although more people are now aware of the harm that can be caused by SBS it is still a problem for workforces.  Business owners can lose a significant amount of revenue through staff taking days of sick. So if you have noticed an increase in staff sickness it’s worthwhile to look into the possibility of SBS affecting your workspace.

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