Editorial: workplace health a series issue

To some, “sick building syndrome” sounds like an invented phrase designed to create a new industry.

Editor’s note: This opinion piece has changed since it was originally posted, based on the correction of a mistake.

To some, “sick building syndrome” sounds like an invented phrase designed to create a new industry.

But to those who have experienced health problems at work, the broad label – it was first coined in the 1970s – was music to their ears. It was a recognition that such annoying symptoms as sore throats or eyes, dry cough and even fatigue, that seemed to disappear upon leaving a building, may indeed have been a result of external forces rather than being related to their personal health care in general.

A recent WorkSafeBC report called out the University of Victoria for not adequately protecting the health and safety of its employees in the Sedgewick building, home to UVic’s communications department. Mould spores and high carbon dioxide levels had been found but were not definitively determined to have contributed to symptoms experienced by employees working there.

UVic had been looking into the problems as far back as 2009, following numerous complaints from staff. Still, WorkSafe, which received a employee complaint about Sedgewick in 2011, found not enough was done to remedy air quality problems in the building.

In these days of economic uncertainty, people are fearful of losing their jobs if they complain and are often reluctant to speak up when working conditions are less than ideal.

It takes great courage for an employee to stand up for their right to a healthy work environment, especially when the source of illness or discomfort is not immediately apparent. It also takes courage for management to do the right thing, even if that means spending money on something not in the budget.

As with the identity theft case that prompted the university to tighten up its security, UVic, one of Canada’s top employers, has an opportunity to show leadership again by getting to the bottom of the Sedgewick problems. By adhering to WorkSafeBC’s orders and instituting an environmental health policy for all its buildings, it can ensure employees’ concerns are taken seriously.

Just Posted

Ancient microbes discovered off the Juan de Fuca Ridge potentially offers glimpse into alien life

The marine bacteria is dependent on hydrogen, a compound present almost everywhere

Saanich rental project wins silver by going ‘green’

The Verve rental housing project stands at the corner of Boleskine Road and Whittier Avenue

Volunteers needed for annual Mother’s Day walk

Breast Cancer Society of Canada hosts annual Mother’s Day event

Sidney Lions dish $4,000 to help build on growing trishaw bike charity

Cycling Without Age Society draws attention as far off as Washington

420 celebrations turn over new leaf at B.C. legislature

Cannabis is legal for the first time in the 21-year existence of the 420 event in Victoria

WATCH: Movie star and PACE alum Calum Worthy talks musical theatre and his career

“American Vandal” and “Austin and Ally” actor has been returning to the program for over 20 years

POLL: How often does your family use BC Ferries?

Navigating the lineups for BC Ferries is a way of life for… Continue reading

Crime Stoppers most wanted for Greater Victoria for the week of April 16

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

QUIZ: How much do you know about Easter?

Take this short quiz and put your knowledge to the test

B.C. VIEWS: NDP’s lawyer show is turning into a horror movie

Court actions pile up over pipelines, car insurance, care aides

Global Affairs warns Canadians in Sri Lanka there could be more attacks

A series of bomb blasts killed at least 207 people and injured hundreds more

Waste not: Kootenay brewery leftovers feed the local food chain

Spent grains from the Trail Beer Refinery are donated to local farmers and growers, none go to waste

Deck collapses in Langley during celebration, 35 people injured

Emergency responders rushed to the Langley home

Most Read