Healthy Living

Dealing With The Very Real Risk Of Sick Building Syndrome

We are all aware that there are health and safety concerns to be raised at work. Dealing with machinery, with recurring slipping and tripping hazards, and stress are all part of your employer’s responsibility. But the work environment itself might be a serious contributor to more chronic health issues you face. Workers have fallen sick in buildings of all kinds, from factories and chemical plants to offices and libraries. There are a variety of risks, so here are a few you might need to talk to your employer about.

Breathe easy

One of the most common health concerns is the fact that most buildings tend to have air quality that degrades over time. Unless they’re properly cared for, the air inside an office can resemble a stew of bacteria and allergens more than anything else. Poor air quality isn’t just unpleasant. It can lead to the cause or exacerbation of serious respiratory conditions like asthma. Taking more breaks in the fresh air can help, but the problems need to be addressed by ensuring that the HVAC is well looked after. Cleaning and replacing ventilation, cleaning and dehumidifying air conditioning. If your employer isn’t doing this, they could be putting you at risk.

Know the risks

Some buildings are a lot more dangerous than others, too. In particular, older buildings are a lot more likely to have risks that would fail modern safety standards. Some older buildings, for instance, use materials that are a much greater risk of fire. Others, however, contain risks that can infect the very air and lead to serious injury illness. Asbestos is still a concern in a lot of older buildings and if your employer doesn’t ensure that the building is cleared of it, you could hold them accountable with the help of a mesothelioma attorney if you end up suffering from it. Another common risk in older buildings is lead paint once used on roofs, doors, and other parts. Be aware of how old the work environment is and ask your employer if they have done a serious risk assessment.

Aches and pains

It’s less to do with the air of work environment or the risk of exposure, but a significant portion of work environment related conditions is in the posture and activity of the employees inside. Poor office furniture and a lack of breaks from repetitive jobs like using pneumatic tools or working on a factory line won’t just leave you sore for a while. It can contribute to chronic physical pain like a back injury or joint ligament damage. As an employee, it’s a good idea to have methods of dealing with pain after work. In the workplace, however, you should be talking to the employer about more breaks, about ergonomics, and about equipment that might help you avoid chronic injury.

Your employer is responsible not just for your risk of accident and injury. They’re also responsible for those long-term risks and how they contribute to any health issues you might face. If you’re concerned that you’re in an old building at risk of harboring asbestos or that your air quality is putting you at risk of asthma, it’s worth speaking up about.


Karla Urwitz
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