Five families living at Florida’s MacDill Air Force Base have filed lawsuits over mold in their military homes, which they claim has led to them experiencing sick building syndrome. The families are seeking compensation for personal injury, financial loss, and associated pain and suffering. One of them, a chief warrant officer with the army, visited four specialists about his symptoms, which included mood swings, chest pain, fatigue and dizziness. He was eventually diagnosed with sick building syndrome (SBS), medically signed off from any physical activity, and prescribed four daily medications. A recognized medical condition, sick building syndrome can be caused by mold and poorly maintained air conditioners that can lead to severe and sometimes debilitating symptoms.
Causes Of Sick Building Syndrome
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identifies poor ventilation, and chemical and biological contaminants as the leading causes of SBS. Sick building syndrome-related lawsuits can cost employers millions of dollars, and are often linked to inefficient and poorly maintained HVAC systems. Chemical contaminants found in everything from cleaning products to furniture upholstery can also be responsible for making people feel sick. Mold, bacteria and pollen are other common culprits. Mold can be difficult to detect, and grows in areas that aren’t visible, meaning it can take years before it is discovered.
Workers’ Comp And SBS
Workers’ compensation settlements are commonly associated with injuries sustained through accidents at work. However, it can also relate to employees experiencing a long-lasting illness caused by their workplace environment. The most common symptoms of sick building syndrome are shortness of breath, eye, nose or throat irritation, sensitivity to odors, headaches, and even personality changes. It is possible for sick building-related hazards to make people so unwell that there are grounds for compensation. While employers may view workers’ compensation as just another business expense, Cerity.com highlights the important role it has in shielding employers from any legal repercussions, while also protecting employees from medical expenses and loss of wages.
Creating A Healthier Workplace
The first important step to take in eliminating the risk of sick building syndrome is to ensure there are no hazards in the building, such as bacteria or mold. If no identifiable cause for a person’s symptoms can be found but there is a suspicion of sick building syndrome, it’s important to check the air handling system is functioning properly. The HVAC system may need to be maintained more frequently and filters replaced more often. Any chemicals in the building should be stored in an area that’s adequately ventilated. Carpets and furniture should also contain low levels of volatile organic compounds, while only low-VOC paints should be used during renovations. It might also help to regularly open windows while reducing work stress, and taking regular computer breaks can also help to improve symptoms.
To safeguard the health of your employees, it is a smart business move to do everything possible to reduce and prevent sick building syndrome. Well-maintained HVAC systems, removing mold, and a thoughtful selection of the materials used during renovations and for furniture can help to eradicate and prevent further sick building syndrome issues.