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

Local tongue-in-cheek opportunists flog snow huts

‘Executive’ and ‘eco-friendly’ one-bedrooms pop up on Craigslist and Used Victoria

Province urges backcountry adventurers to stay safe this weekend

Search and rescue responded to 28 incidents last Family Day weekend

Snow storms prompt reminders to prepare for emergencies

Province reminds public of essential supplies

West Shore fundraiser serves up hope for kids with food allergies

Proceeds assist Oral Immunotherapy Research Program at BC Children’s Hospital

Langford could soon be seeing its first retail cannabis store

Clarity Cannabis BC Ltd. gets province’s approval

B.C. students win Great Waters Challenge video contest

Video, mural and song about saving the salmon claims the top prize

Ammonia leak shuts down curling club in Nelson

It’s not yet clear when the leak was detected

Pavelski’s 31st goal helps Sharks top Canucks 3-2

Vancouver one point out of second NHL wild-card spot

Eight cases of measles confirmed in Vancouver outbreak

Coastal Health official say the cases stem from the French-language Ecole Jules Verne Secondary

Ontario police field complaints over Amber Alert for missing girl, 11, found dead

Some said the Amber Alert issued late Thursday for Riya Rajkumar disrupted their sleep

Former B.C. premier Gordon Campbell accused of sexual touching

Accuser went to police, interviewed by Britian’s Daily Telegraph

B.C. couple attacked with acid, slashed with knife in Vietnam

Warning, graphic images: Man has burns on 80 per cent of his body, slashed with knife

Northern B.C. First Nation clan says ancient tools found at pipeline work site

Archeologists from the Smithsonian Institute estimate one of the stones found dates back up to 3500 years

Names keep adding to vaccine petition started by B.C. mom

Maple Ridge mom started campaign to make vaccination a condition of attending school

Most Read