SICK days could be reduced and staff productivity raised if the UK's employers tackle high CO2
levels with proper air-conditioning.
High levels of CO2
in UK offices contributes to staff sick days and can reduce worker's concentration levels by 30% according to a KPMG study conducted on 300 adults last March.
High indoor carbon dioxide concentrations can cause headaches, eye problems, nasal symptoms, respiratory tract conditions and fatigue, according to the study.
In modern offices with sealed windows, draught exclusions and insulation, natural ventilation is minimal causing air to be used and breathed but not replaced.
This problem is resolved with an efficient and well-controlled air-conditioning system but becomes an issue if an ac system is not well maintained or is poorly designed in the first place.
If staff feel lethargic, apathetic or unable to concentrate at work, the routine and stress of their job may not be to blame but the high level of CO2
in the indoor air could be.
KPMG's health and well-being manager, Julie Bennett, said 'I have taken readings in a range of company offices, as well as public buildings and schools, and it is not at all uncommon to find levels of well over 1000ppm (parts per million). This is an issue that organisations need to take more notice of.'
The study also found that at levels above 1,500ppm, 79% of people reported feeling tired. At levels above 2000ppm nearly two thirds of participants reported having no level of concentration. In addition 97% of migraine sufferers reported symptoms at levels over 1000ppm.
levels could be one of the major contributory factors to so-called sick building syndrome,' said Bennett.
Sick Building Syndrome (SBS) is the term used to describe a set of symptoms experienced by individuals indoors. It has been recognised as a phenomenon by the World Health Organisation since 1982. Studies by the HSE have estimated between 30-50% of new or refurbished buildings can cause some form of SBS.
The symptoms of SBS vary between individuals but usually include:
· Skin problems - dry, itchy, rashes
· Upper respiratory tract irritations - coughing, dry, itchy or sore nose or throat, stuffy or runny nose
· Eye irritations - dry, itchy, weepy eyes
· Neurological - headaches, lethargy, irritability, poor concentration.
The benefits of carrying out indoor air quality assessments include improving staff morale, efficiency, less time spent dealing with complaints, lower levels of absenteeism, better staff retention, and a more motivated workforce.
KPMG offers the following advise air quality monitoring:
·Inspect maintenance and service records of mechanical ventilation systems to ensure compliance with regulatory standards for suitable air supply. The reuse of air from store rooms, photocopying rooms etc should be prohibited
·Implement an indoor air quality audit. Select a monitoring point that is representative of general air quality away from walls, partitions and corners, air supply diffusers, floor fans, heaters or direct solar light, and away from local sources of pollutants such as printers and photocopiers
·Ensure other indoor air quality factors such as temperature and air humidity are recorded to validate the relationship between air supply and air quality
·Monitor sickness and absence data, comparing them with indoor air quality data to identify trends.
·Measure at set times of the day and week
'Companies ought to be checking CO2
levels in their buildings,' Julie Bennett said. 'Otherwise staff well-being could be affected, and reduced levels of productivity could potentially cost a company thousands of pounds'.