OVERLOOKED STRATEGIES TO DEAL WITH WORKPLACE ALLERGENS
Allergies can range from a mild irritation, such as an itchy throat after breathing in cat hair, to a near-death experience, like when a person with a nut allergy comes into contact with peanuts. Most people who are aware of their allergy triggers take precautions to keep themselves safe, but it can be difficult to avoid such triggers in an environment that they can’t control — one that is shared with other people. The workplace is a huge hotspot for allergic reactions and sensitivities.
Dr. Karin Pacheco, a specialist in respiratory illness at the National Jewish Medical and Research Center in Denver, estimates occupational asthma — a term used to describe a reaction to allergens in the workplace — is responsible for 24.5 million missed work days across the nation annually. Additionally, asthma costs society an average of $56 billion a year in medical costs and lost labor.
Proper ventilation and regular cleanings are two obvious steps building owners and property managers can take to remove or reduce common allergens present in their buildings. Here are a few other suggestions for dealing with allergens and allergy complaints.
Don’t Let Animal Allergens Run Wild
While office dogs are becoming more commonplace, most workplaces tend to be pet-free. This doesn’t mean animal hair and dander can’t make their way into your building. Pet owners tend to bring pet hair on their clothing wherever they go. Encourage your tenants to keep hair removal rollers in the workplace to reduce how much pet hair becomes part of the indoor environment. If a tenant with an especially severe animal allergy experiences a reaction when they come to work, one possible solution is to rearrange the workspace to avoid putting the allergen sufferer near pet owners. Remind tenants that IAQ is a group responsibility.
Utilize Allergy Tests
If a tenant suffers from a runny nose and itchy eyes every time they come into your building, their first thought will likely be to blame the building. They’ll complain about mold, dust, poor air quality, or even just a “sick building.” But what if what they are really reacting to is the cat hair their coworker carries in on her clothing? Sometimes the source of an allergy or sensitivity is obvious, but quite often, the cause of a reaction can be totally surprising. Consulting a certified allergy specialist to accurately assess allergy triggers can help you determine whether there’s an IAQ problem in your building or whether something else is to blame.
You can’t control everything tenants or employees do inside your building, but you can take proactive steps to deal with any problems that may arise. Stay informed about possible allergens in your building and raise awareness among tenants.