Allergic to Work?

by Graham Chapman

Americans miss 24.5 million workdays each year due to “occupational asthma” and lose energy and focus due to sneezing, coughing and watery eyes. And these numbers are getting worse as the number of people with allergies is increasing and global warming, according to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation, is fueling longer allergy seasons.

With the EPA saying the lingering cold weather threatens to make this late-blooming allergy season the worst ever, the pollen tsunami rolling through offices here is threatening workplace productivity more than ever before. “Are you allergic to work?” is suddenly a legitimate question!

To help employers keep their workplaces healthy this allergy season, local office cleaning experts from Stratus Building Solutions created the Office Allergy Checklist. “Workplace allergies fall under workers’ compensation laws, so, with the Office Allergy Checklist, we’re helping local employers clean up the pollen petri dish that’s invading offices and making people sick,” says Afshin Cangarlu, CEO of Stratus Building Solutions, the nation’s leading green commercial cleaning franchise, whose company can also visit businesses onsite to demonstrate with props how to combat invading allergens and clean up neglected areas. “There are simple steps employers and employees can take to make the office healthier this allergy season.”

Office Allergy Checklist

Stop Sprayin’ and Prayin’. Ditch the reliance on fragrances, disinfectant sprays, chemical cleaners, etc. to mask smells and clean spills. Alkaline and acid cleaners contain dangerous chemicals and people are allergic to various scents. Use green, plant-based disinfectant wipes and consider a “scent-free” policy to combat these issues. And if an employee wears a strong perfume or cologne, it might be time to privately ask him or her to stop. Strong scents can aggravate allergies and make colleagues sick. 

Reward Early Birds and Promote Clean Eating. Pollen gets worse later in the day, so encourage employees to arrive early. Spicy/bold foods trigger more histamines — sending people into allergy fits. It would be wise to know about employees’ food allergies that may require the office to have a separate refrigerator or microwave to avoid inadvertent food contact. For businesses that bring in lunch, consider catering with allergy-fighting foods, such as fish, walnuts, peppers and strawberries. 

Vent Away. Effective filtration is critical during allergy season. Conduct an indoor air quality test to make sure air is recirculated so the system is not sucking in outdoor allergens. Also, minimize workplace humidity (to less than 50 percent) and frequently clean poorly ventilated areas to protect against mold.

Plan Projects. Don’t compound the pollen problem with other projects/items that spark allergic reactions. Save office improvement projects requiring painting for the holidays when many aren’t working, because all types of paint can cause allergy issues. Many folks have latex allergies, so eliminate all latex from the office, especially rubber latex products such as rubber bands, balloons, medical supplies and plastic bottles. And if possible, during allergy season, ask the lawn crews to come as early as possible (when pollen isn’t as bad) or late when everyone’s gone home. 

Celebrate a “Dust Your Desk Day.” Allergy danger zones lurk on desks and behind computers, so throw an office cleaning party to eliminate the desk clutter that’s collecting dust and allergens. Check up on cleaning crews to make certain they’re tackling the office’s dustiest places that rarely get cleaned (keyboards, mice/pads, monitors, computer cords/plugs, window blinds, upholstered furniture, and cubical partitions).

Make offices safer, healthier places to work while helping employees cut down on their sneezing and coughing this allergy season.

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