Workers’ compensation settlements are not just for people who get injured in accidents at work. Slippery floors and falling shelves are not the only health hazards lurking in office buildings. Contaminants such as mold can also make workers sick; when they spend their working hours in the presence of these contaminants for months or years on end, it can lead to long-lasting illnesses. The term “sick building syndrome” refers to physical illnesses resulting from persistent exposure to something physically or psychologically hazardous in one’s indoor workplace, and while the resulting illnesses are usually minor, it is possible for sick building-related occupational hazards to make people so sick that they have grounds for a workers’ compensation case.
What Is Sick Building Syndrome?
The term “sick building syndrome” first appeared in print in 1986, in the context that many office buildings built in the 1970s and 1980s had poor indoor air quality, causing a worsening of allergy symptoms in people who worked in the buildings. A series of lawsuits in the 1990s against the architects and engineers who had designed the sick buildings led to stricter codes about the materials that could be used in buildings and their HVAC systems. Thus, sick building syndrome is not a single illness, and current building codes are such that today’s workers whose office environments make them sick are unlikely to have illnesses of the same etiology as the sick building syndrome patients of the 1980s.
Even though sick building syndrome is not a specific illness with specific diagnostic criteria, if it ever was, office buildings can be hazardous to the health of the employees who work there. These are some ways in which office buildings can make people sick.
- Mold – Mold in the HVAC system of a building can cause frequent respiratory illnesses. In some individuals, these illnesses can be severe.
- Headaches – Spending the entire day under fluorescent lights in a windowless office can cause frequent headaches. Focusing one’s eyes on a computer screen throughout the workday can also cause headaches. People with a history of migraines are especially susceptible to headaches in these conditions.
- Emotional stress – It is the people in the building, not the building itself, that cause emotional stress, but the mental health of office workers is vulnerable, and as work hours increase and job security and work-life balance decrease, it is only getting worse. Poor work conditions can lead to clinical anxiety and depression, in some cases so severe that the employee cannot continue working.
Not All Work-Related Illnesses Are Eligible for Workers’ Compensation
It is unfortunately common for work to take a toll on people’s health. Workers’ compensation cases, though, must fit specific criteria. Workers’ compensation settlements are usually paid for workplace injuries, or else for specific diseases recognized by legal precedent as being associated with certain working conditions, such as lung cancer for workers exposed to asbestos.
Contact Walton Telken, LLC About Workers’ Compensation Cases
A personal injury attorney can answer your questions about work-related illnesses. Contact Walton Telken, LLC in the Kirkwood, Missouri area to discuss your case.