If you’ve ever heard your employees or co-workers complaining about persistent headaches or a general feeling of being unwell at the office – you could be dealing with a case of Sick Building Syndrome.
What is Sick Buildiing Syndrome (SBS)?
Sick Building Syndrome (noun) a condition affecting office workers, typically marked by headaches and respiratory problems, attributed to unhealthy or stressful factors in the working environment such as poor ventilation. (Google Dictionary)
An unhealthy work environment can lower productivity by increasing absenteeism and negatively affecting overall morale. Although there are numerous sources of Sick Building Syndrome, many of them can be attributed to poor indoor air quality, which is caused by inadequate ventilation and a buildup of pollutants such as dust, mould, chemicals and bacteria.
Symptoms of SBS
- Burning or itching eyes
- Stuffy nose
- Sore throat
- Tight chest
- Dry or itchy skin
- Difficulty concentrating
- Nausea and fatigue
The infographic below gives a detailed explanation of Sick Building Syndrome and its potential effects on the workforce. Source: Paint Inspection Ltd
Seasonal Effects on Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)
As outdoor temperatures drop in Winter, people in office buildings tend to keep a tight lid on doors and windows to eliminate drafts and conserve heat – limiting fresh air exchange and allowing indoor air pollutants to multiply.
In addition, excess moisture caused by condensation due to temperature fluctuations can also negatively affect indoor air quality by creating ideal conditions for mould to grow.
During this time, cleaning and disinfecting is particularly important to maintain healthy indoor air quality.
Cleaning for Indoor Air Quality
- Use green cleaning products
While cleaning regularly is a good way to keep your indoor air pollutant-free, the products used could actually be making it worse. Many heavy-duty cleaners contain toxic chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOC) that can cause eye, nose, throat and lung irritation. If you employ a professional cleaning company, make sure they use cleaning products that are ‘green’ or environmentally safe.
- Clean carpets and upholstery
Carpets, upholstery and fabric surfaces act like a filter for particulates coming in from the outdoors. In buildings that see frequent traffic – dirt, dust and allergens can build up quickly, which is in turn stirred up into the air we breathe. Regularly deep cleaning carpets and upholstery will help lift, suspend and flush contaminants that could be affecting indoor air quality and making your staff sick.
- Clean & maintain HVAC systems
Air ducts in offices are breeding grounds for fungus, mould spores and bacteria which, if not cleaned and maintained on a regular basis, will get circulated throughout the building. Before the heat gets revved up for Winter, make sure the ducts have been thoroughly cleaned.
- Keep mould under control
Pay particular attention to areas where excess moisture and humidity can occur, such as bathrooms, kitchens and laundry rooms. Mould is likely to grow in grow in dark, damp places – so it is important to keep all susceptible surfaces dry and clean at all times.
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