Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is a significant workplace health concern that modern janitorial services can combat.
Outsourcing Janitorial Services to Cure your Sick Building
Sick Building Syndrome is an unseen health issue plaguing office buildings around the world.
It has been identified as the cause of vaguely defined, yet often serious, ongoing illness in employees.
The symptoms range from mild physical discomfort to dramatic shifts in personality.
The cost to the business, from extended sick leave and reduced worker output, to the expense of completely remodeling a building, is measured in millions of dollars annually.
A significant problem compounding the issue is a general lack of awareness and education throughout the last few decades, whereby many workers complaints were written off as psychosomatic.
Modern science and research techniques are only now beginning to understand the impact our workplace has on our health.
SBS could have profound implications on business’s wishing to attract younger generations of employee’s who have shown a tendency to gravitate towards jobs that provide them with more job satisfaction, as opposed to just higher wages.
What Is Sick Building Syndrome?
Sick building syndrome (SBS) is used to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified.
A 1984 World Health Organization (WHO) report suggested up to 30% of new and remodeled buildings worldwide may be subject of complaints related to poor indoor air quality.
Sick building causes are frequently pinned down to flaws in the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems.
Other causes have been attributed to contaminants produced by outgassing of some types of building materials, volatile organic compounds (VOC), molds (see mold health issues), improper exhaust ventilation of ozone (byproduct of some office machinery), light industrial chemicals used within, or lack of adequate fresh-air intake/air filtration.
-WikiPedia – Sick Building Syndrome
The most common signs that your building may be suffering from sick building syndrome tend to manifest as physical ailments, most commonly resembling seasonal allergies or flu-like symptoms.
These range from:
- A cough.
- Chest pain.
- Shortness of breath with minimal exertion.
- Heart palpitations.
- Complications with pregnancy.
- Extrinsic Allergic Alveolitis.
- Legionnaire’s Disease.
- Humidifier Fever.
- Cardiac Arrhythmias.
- Pneumonia, and;
- Occupational Asthma.
Controversial Psychological Factors
The psychosomatic stigma of SBS has led to a controversy in the medical field, lending further weight towards the equally unresearched and undocumented belief that these workers are manifesting physical symptoms due to underlying mental health issues coming to the surface due to workplace stress or job dissatisfaction.
Those factors are reportedly most prevalent in work environments where the employee(s) are subjected to a high amount of stress with little to no support from upper management.
It has been suggested that certain groups are more susceptible to SBS than others, most notably those suffering from:
- Macrophagic Myofascitis.
- The Gulf War Syndrome, or;
- Post-Vaccination Phenomena.
Mass Psychogenic Illness (MPI)
Mass Psychogenic Illness (MPI), commonly referred to as Mass Hysteria, has been identified as a possible culprit behind SBS.
MPI manifests similar physical symptoms as SBS, and can be triggered by smells a person finds unpleasant.
The origin of the smells varies from unpleasant body odor or antiperspirant to gasses evaporating from a freshly installed carpet and, as mentioned, VOCs.
In addition to physical and psychological conditions brought about by a poorly supervised and over-stressed workforce, several other key factors have been identified as precursors to SBS, including:
- High levels of air pollution; either indoor or excessive outdoor exposure.
- Over exposure to toxic chemicals.
- Poor indoor ventilation.
- Elevated levels of electromagnetic exposure.
- Poor lighting.
- Low humidity.
- Over exposure to airborne dust, bacteria, and other toxic particulate matter.
- A lack of, or a low quality of cleanliness standards, often in violation of OSHA guidelines.
Recent studies have pointed to a condition dubbed QWERTY Tummy as another contributor, or possible cause of SBS.
Know the Signs
There are several signs that an employer should look out for:
- Several individuals report experiencing the same, or similar symptoms.
- Symptoms only occur in a particular building or part of the office.
- Symptoms vanish when away from or outside the building.
- Symptoms manifest seasonally.
There are several steps that you can take to address and eliminate SBS in your office.
- Ventilation – Clean all air ducts before and after the summer season. Look at ways to allow natural air flow from the outside, keeping in mind the idea is to reduce indoor air pollution.
- Plants – Live plants are an inexpensive way to absorb toxic CO2 levels in buildings that can contribute to respiratory issues. Current research has also shown a correlation between the placement of live indoor plants and employee health and wellbeing.
- Carpet – Carpets trap and filter out a large amount of dust and airborne pollution from the air. Make sure to have your carpet cleaned regularly to avoid knocking the dust, mold spores, and trapped bacteria into the air. Additionally, strongly consider implementing green carpet cleaning practices to eliminate the possibility of triggering or compounding SBS through human reactions to harsh chemicals.
- Lighting – Repair or replace all damaged or low-quality lighting throughout the building. Consider implementing a natural lighting solution.
- Hygiene – Encourage employee’s to follow recommended personal hygiene regimens, especially after using the bathroom, to avoid passing along germs on high-touch surfaces.
- Desk – A person’s desk has been shown to contain high levels of illness-causing bacteria, more so than a toilet in some cases. Discourage employee’s from eating at their desk and provide computer users with the appropriate sanitation wipes to disinfect computer keyboards and mice. Additionally, make certain that computer monitors are at an optimal height, angle, and distance, as well as dust free to avoid eye, neck, and back strain that can lead to headaches and nausea.
While Sick Building Syndrome has yet to be scientifically proven, and many doubts remain regarding its authenticity as an actual Syndrome, the reality remains that if it is what employees believe is causing their issue, then it is a problem that needs to be addressed.
We have discussed and reiterated, on multiple occasions, the direct correlation between worker happiness and productivity.
It is in a businesses best interest to adhere to healthy office standards in order to maintain profit margins and attract and retain younger, highly-skilled employees.
Ultimately, the solution points towards a thorough adoption of green cleaning practices and standards to maintain the health of your staff, customers, and the building itself.
If you would like to learn more about the benefits of professional janitorial services for your business, contact us today for a free quote!
In Bakersfield CA, call (661) 395-3009
In Fresno CA, call (559) 473-1790
- US National Library of Medicine – The sick building syndrome
- MedicineNet.com – Sick Building Syndrome (Environmental Illness, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity or MCS)
- Patient.info – Sick Building Syndrome
- NHS Choices – Sick building syndrome
- Global Healing Center – Are You Suffering From Sick Building Syndrome?
- The Environmental Illness Resource – Sick Building Syndrome (SBS)
- WebMD – Sick-Building Syndrome
- HealthDay – Sick Building Syndrome: Is Your Office Making You Sick?
- Bloomberg Business Week – Is Your Office Killing You?
- Cornell University – Addressing the Psychological Aspects of Indoor Air Quality