4 Surprising Allergens in the Workplace

You do your best to maintain a safe workplace. You regularly hold training meetings for your staff, and you drill employees on safety practices every few months. Additionally, you make sure hallways and exits remain free of obstacles.

But did you know that your office likely harbours allergens that could make your staff miserable?

Allergens hide on a variety of surfaces, and without proper action, they could increase the risk of allergic reactions and worsen respiratory conditions. As your employees struggle with sniffles, sneezes and sinus headaches, you can bet that productivity levels will drop as a result.

If you want to improve the health and safety of your team, watch out for the following.

1. Pollen in the Air Ducts

During the peak of pollen season, tree, grass and flower pollens can blow in through open windows, latch onto employees' clothing and track through your building on the bottom of clients' shoes.

Fortunately, you can stop pollen from circulating further when you invest in office-grade HEPA filters and replace them every month or so. HEPA filters remove small airborne particles and allergens, allowing your employees to breathe easier.

If you find that the HEPA filters in your HVAC system can't keep up with the pollen count, purchase several high-quality air filters and place them strategically throughout the office. Additionally, you can encourage employees to keep windows closed and to leave their jackets near the door.

2. Dust Mites in the Carpets

As you surmised from their name, dust mites live in and on dust in your office. They feed on shed skin flakes and excrete faeces that contain proteins known to trigger allergic reactions.

Although you can find dust mites hiding in furniture, in drapes and on shelves, your carpets likely harbour most of these tiny pests. Regular vacuuming keeps your carpets looking clean, but most common appliances lack the suction to remove dust mites from the deeper fibres and padding.

To keep dust mites under control, hire a cleaning professional to steam clean your carpets every few months. Additionally, consider installing carpet and rugs with low pile rather than high pile, or opt for hardwood flooring to keep allergies at bay.

3. Mould on Kitchen Surfaces

Australia houses thousands of mould species, and a large majority of them release spores too small to see. But despite the spores' small size, mould can cause a lot of damage to those with allergies and sensitivities. Mould can trigger congestion, eye irritation and wheezing.

Mould grows in a variety of office locations, from under bathroom sinks to forgotten corners of your break room and kitchen. They grow best in dark, humid environments, so purchase a few dehumidifiers for the muggy sections of your building.

To further cut mould growth, hire a professional to clean spills with an antibacterial soap and to frequently take the trash to the dumpster. Set your thermostat to 20 degrees Celsius (or lower), and avoid storing papers, books and similar materials in the humid parts of your office.

4. Formaldehyde on Furniture

If you've purchased furniture in the last few days, you may notice that some of your pieces emit a particular odour. While many people associate this scent as a 'new furniture smell', few recognise this odour as formaldehyde.

Formaldehyde is an adhesive resin that holds many composite woods together. Furthermore, formaldehyde functions as an effective disinfectant. However, formaldehyde also releases a gas that causes watery eyes, burning throat and nausea in sensitive individuals. Additionally, formaldehyde acts as a potent sensitiser, making many people sensitive to other chemicals they might not have noticed otherwise.

While you could try to 'air out' your new furniture, keep in mind that wood composites never fully lose their formaldehyde gas, as the formaldehyde glue is what holds the wood together. To reduce risks to your employees, choose real wood furniture or hire a contractor to coat composite wood furniture with a sealer.

Let Your Employees Breathe Easy in the Workplace

The above tips can help you remove allergens from your office and create a healthier environment for your employees. However, you should keep in mind that each employee could suffer from a different allergen. Be sure to interview your staff and ask them about any potential allergies they have and take the appropriate steps to clear your office of the trigger.

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