Working in a closed office space might prove hazardous. Connecticut employees might not be aware of the health risks involved when working inside a damp office building. According to government researchers, exposure to building dampness may lead to many respiratory disorders and other ailments. However, proper and regular building maintenance might help to control workplace illness caused by building dampness.

Recently, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health issued an alert to address building dampness. The alert is more of a suggestion targeted at employers, advising them to properly maintain buildings to avoid building dampness. NIOSH has also outlined the ways moisture can develop in the buildings and the potential health concerns.

Rain may dampen a building. This dampness may make its way through roofs and window leaks into the interior of a building. High humidity inside and flooding outside are often factors that lead to building’s dampness. These conditions may lead to the growth of fungi and bacteria. Wear and tear of building walls may encourage the growth of volatile organic compounds in the building environment. These organic compounds are released as a result of the breaking down of the building materials.

Apart from headaches, fatigue, inattentiveness and irritation in the eyes, nose and throat, dampness may lead to more serious problems like respiratory infections, eczema and other neurological conditions. Those already suffering from asthma or hypersensitivity pneumonitis are at a higher risk and may contract a more serious disease or progress to an advanced stage, if sufficient precautionary measures are not administered.

Employers should not underestimate the problem. Addressing the problem will not only be beneficial for the employees but will also save employers’ time and money. An increase in sick leaves may also lead to a loss of productivity.

Buildings must be regularly inspected and roofs, ceilings, walls and basements should be checked for dampness. Timely action should be taken to correct the problem. Heating, ventilating, and air-conditioning systems should also be inspected periodically, as these can also be responsible for dampness.

Employees suffering from workplace illnesses, resulting from unfavorable or hazardous conditions at work, may file a workers’ compensation claim against the employer. The compensation awarded may include medical expenses, lost wages and disability costs.

Source: Risk and Insurance, “NIOSH: Address building moisture early to protect health, save costs,” Jan. 18, 2013