Sick building syndrome is a term that covers a variety of worker illnesses that are linked to hazardous indoor air quality. The buildings may be referred to as sick, but it is those who work within them that are impacted. A work setting is not always initially identified as the source of the illness. Yet, sick buildings can cause a range of respiratory sicknesses and diseases that jeopardize employees’ health and safety.
A safe and healthy work environment is not a luxury, but rather something to which employees are entitled. It is estimated that in 2018, occupational illnesses cost 1.4 billion workdays and $530 billion in expenses. Employers have an ethical and legal responsibility to reduce occupational hazards, including air quality that leads to detrimental health effects.
The term sick building was first coined in the 1970s to describe the growing problem of workers experiencing a variety of health effects that was directly related to their time spent in a building. Today, in 2019, companies are seeing signs that it may be on the rise again.
Sick building syndrome is generally used to cover the following symptoms: headache, nose and throat irritation, dry cough, wheezing, skin rash and itching, dizziness, and fatigue. Symptoms in affected employees subside after leaving the building. Researchers identified that the range of effects directly tied to spending time in a particular building was caused by specific indoor conditions.
Inadequate ventilation was identified as one cause in which buildings do not meet the recommended air circulation standards per number of people. Inadequate ventilation can also be part of sick building syndrome that is caused by chemical and biological contaminants. These can come from indoor sources, such as building and flooring products, cleaning products, and combustion processes. Contaminants can also be produced outdoors and migrate into the workplace. Outdoor causes include exhaust, combustion processes, mold, pollen, and even bacteria. Mold can develop in settings particularly in the presence of high humidity and can be a clear contributing factor in respiratory symptoms. Ventilation and compliance with indoor air quality standards is therefore an important part of managing sick building syndrome.
Employers have a variety of resources to address these health issues in the workplace. A thorough assessment and physical inspection of the worksite is a first step, which should include assessing the heating and ventilation systems, potential contaminants, means of access, and interviews with key staff. Smart technology offers more advanced ways to regularly monitor for problems. A plan to address the findings with corrective action should be implemented and then the affected workers should be monitored for improvement.
For anyone who is suffering from illnesses caused by their work environment, it is always recommended to seek the guidance of a skilled Workers’ Compensation lawyer to fight for your rights to the medical care you need.
If you were injured or suffered from a work-related illness, the Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Gross & Kenny, LLP can help. We will review your case and obtain the benefits you deserve. For a free consultation to discuss your case, complete our online form or call us at 267-589-0090 today. Located in Philadelphia, we serve clients across Pennsylvania.