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HomeBlog General Sick Building Syndrome In Hospitals: Is It Affecting The Productivity Of Workers?

Sick Building Syndrome In Hospitals: Is It Affecting The Productivity Of Workers?

20th March 2020

Freelance writer Jocasta Morrison is back with her latest blog.. 

There are around 5.15 million workers in the hospital industry, with full-time employees working an average of 42.4 hours per week, while part-time workers in the same industry work 24 hours per week. Hospital workers are also exposed to different hazards, such as physical, ergonomic, and psycho-social hazards, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). In addition, sick building syndrome (SBS) in hospitals may also exist, adding an extra hazard for health workers. SBS affects the health of employees and can have a negative impact on their performance and productivity.

Healthcare Facilities Can Be Affected By SBS

No facility or structure is immune to SBS. Although medical facilities are sterilised often enough and treated to prevent infection and its spread, the irony is hospitals can become a source of SBS. There are several factors that contribute to the situation. Outdoor pollutants, such as exhaust fumes from vehicles, sewage or plumbing odours, can enter the building through various openings. Indoors, pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) from carpets, cleaning products, treated wood, adhesives and upholstery release toxic agents into the air.

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning ((HVAC) systems may also be infected with mould that releases toxins into the atmosphere: some species of mould carry mycotoxins on their spores, which can cause health issues like headaches, nausea and respiratory problems. Removal of black mould in hospitals eliminates side effects and the threat of rare but potential problems such as convulsions and haemorrhage. In addition to mould, bacteria and viruses can also breed in the HVAC system.

Effects Of SBS On Health Workers

Exposure to toxic air indoors affects health workers. Some of the symptoms of SBS include headaches, fever, cough, chills and allergic reactions. The most common symptom among employees is malaise or a sense of discomfort.

Physical attributes of buildings can provoke the appearance of SBS symptoms that impact health, well-being, and the productivity of workers. Other factors such as temperature, humidity and ventilation may trigger SBS symptoms that ultimately lower productivity rates due to nose and throat irritations, asthma, rhinitis and increased susceptibility to colds. Even noise levels are a potential source of stress to occupants, causing headaches and affecting hearing abilities that can result in noise-induced hearing loss. Overall, the health and comfort of hospital workers is vital in their productivity. If the environment is inhospitable, it will affect their levels of performance, resulting in inattentiveness, poor concentration and frequent absences.

Addressing SBS In Hospitals

Design plays an important role in the structure of hospitals. Unfortunately, older hospitals follow the ‘deep plan’ construction, which costs less per unit because it maximises the use of the site. The downside is that the core areas lack natural light and so must be illuminated artificially or by electricity. In addition, hospitals have multiple back-up systems to be able to provide care continuously in case of power outage or malfunction. Alas, this contributes to a huge heat load.

This type of environment exposes health workers to the physiological effects of artificial lighting, poor ventilation and mechanical conditioning. Mould-causing moisture, combustion fumes, cleaning products, and dust from renovations are some of the effects of non-green building materials. The good news is that hospitals have taken steps to enhance air quality by improving ventilation, using natural materials when renovating or upgrading, and eliminating furnaces for heating.

SBS affects the health and productivity of hospital workers. Ensuring that hospital buildings are free from hazards improves the well-being of employees and raises efficiency levels.”

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