What is Sick Building Syndrome?

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What are the symptoms?

Many of the symptoms are common in the community at large and may reflect what is normal in your area for the time of year. The symptoms include:

  • Sore eyes;
  • Dry throats;
  • Chest complaints, such as breathing difficulty infections;
  • Headaches;
  • Lethargy; and
  • Skin irritations.

What are thought to be the causes of Sick Building Syndrome?

In over three decades of workplace auditing in thousands of buildings, Assurity Consulting has not come across a situation of staff discomfort which could not be explained by some specific cause. Researchers have suggested that SBS could be attributed to psychological factors e.g. lack of motivation causing lethargy. Surveys have indicated that where the workforce has greater control over their work environment their feeling of wellbeing is increased.

Many of the symptoms experienced by occupants in suspect buildings are related to:

  • Low humidity;
  • Poor lighting;
  • Thermal imbalance; or
  • High levels of carbon dioxide.

Inadequate maintenance standards, poorly designed work areas and unbalanced ventilation systems can also contribute to these symptoms.

How can you prove that a building is sick or healthy?

When  staff feel that they may be suffering from symptoms caused by their workplace, their concerns can be addressed though an Assurity Consulting Workplace Environmental Assessment. An assessment of workplace comfort conditions covers:

  • Temperature;
  • Humidity;
  • Airflow velocity;
  • Lighting;
  • Gas levels e.g. carbon dioxide or monoxide;
  • Dust levels, airborne particle counts, air sample for microorganisms.

These tests can help determine the causes of many mysterious illnesses. Quality assured reports demonstrating that the working environment is healthy can dispel the rumours that there is something wrong with the building.

What guidance exists on Sick Building Syndrome?

The HSE have produced a guidance document for SBS called How to deal with SBS: Guidance for employers, building owners and building managers, HSG 132. BSRIA (TN 2/2002) have produced a guide called Building-related sickness; causes, effects and ways to avoid it.

Assurity Consulting is the UK's leading independent compliance consultancy specialising in workplace health, safety and environmental solutions. We have over 30 years' experience of helping customers of all sizes, from across all sectors, manage their compliance responsibilities, making sure that their organisation is compliant, their employees are safe, their processes are cost effective and their management team is in control.

This guide is of a general nature; specific advice can be obtained from Assurity Consulting by calling tel. 01403 269375 or by email info@assurityconsulting.co.uk