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Sick Building Syndrome & Indoor Air Quality (IAQ)

Sick building syndrome (SBS) is where workers in particular workplace environment complain that they are experiencing a range of non-specific symptoms. These may include:

  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of concentration
  • Eye and throat irritation
  • Shortness of breath
  • Skin rash
  • Dry skin
  • Itchy skin

The symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome & poor Indoor Air Quality usually resolve once the person who is experiencing them has left the building. Women are more likely to be affected by the symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome than men.

Where does Sick Building Syndrome occur?

Sick Building Syndrome seems to only occur in certain types of buildings. It typically occurs in large open-plan offices with automated heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems.

What causes Sick Building Syndrome?

Since the 1970s, researchers have been trying to identify a definitive cause of Sick Building Syndrome. However, no cause has been identified yet.

Most experts believe that Sick Building Syndrome could be caused by a number of factors working in combination. These factors may include:

  • Poor ventilation
  • Low humidity
  • Airborne pollutants, such as dust, carpet fibres or mould spores
  • Chemical pollutants, such as cleaning materials
  • Ozone produced by photocopiers and printers
  • Psychological factors, such as stress or poor staff morale

Employer’s responsibilities Indoor air quality IAQ

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) recommends that employers should take the steps outlined below to investigate the possible causes of Sick Building Syndrome:

  • Carry out an employee survey to see if the occurrence of symptoms is higher than expected. The survey may also identify obvious causes that can be easily fixed, such as changing the workplace temperature.
  • Check the general cleanliness of the building, including checking that the vacuum cleaners are working properly, are regularly emptied, and that their filters are clean.
  • Check that cleaning materials are being properly used and stored.
  • Check the general operation of the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system. Special attention should be paid to the fresh air supply system.
  • Check the condition and cleanliness of air filters, humidifiers, de-humidifiers and cooling towers.
  • Check the heating, ventilation and air-conditioning system maintenance schedules, and whether these schedules are being properly followed.

Once the steps outlined above have been completed and any necessary actions have been taken, employers should carry out another employee survey to see if symptoms of Sick Building Syndrome persist. If Sick Building Syndrome symptoms are still present, it will be necessary to carry out a more detailed investigation of the workplace.

For more information on Sick Building Syndrome or Indoor Air Quality assessment & testing or if you simply require a competitive quote please call us on 0870 7019170 or complete our online contact form and a member of our team will respond to your query promptly.

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