Is your workplace making you sick, literally? We all have those days were the white lights and glare of the computer monitor just physically drains our bodies. That’s not likely a compensable work related injury. But what if something about the building you work in is causing you problems? Sick building syndrome is a real thing, and it may be covered under Illinois workers compensation laws depending on what happened to you.
Some signs and symptoms of sick building syndrome (SBS) include headache and dizziness, nausea, and overall allergy or flu like symptoms. These symptoms come and go depending on when you are in the building. There is no identifiable actual illness however; excessive stress and dissatisfaction can be associated with the symptoms as well. SBS can make your days at work miserable. There is some possibility that SBS could be caused by ventilation issues and contaminates from outside sources such as bacteria and mold. Some prevention measures could include placing toxin absorbing plants around the office, increasing the number of air exchanges in the HVAC system, and increasing overall ventilation in the building.
Workers compensation will cover your medical care, and lost wages due to an injury associated with your place of employment. The key to winning a case is getting a medical doctor to state that the building environment is causing or contributing to your health problems. Sometimes you know it’s true, but if you can’t prove it, you won’t win your case. So how do you prove it?
One of the best ways to determine if something is wrong with your building is to file a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). They are a government agency that will come to your employer for free and do an inspection. If their report shows a problem with the ventilation or mold or any other issues, you can use that information as evidence in your case. It would make sense to take that report to your doctor as well so they can offer their opinion on what role your job has played with your illness.
If your job is causing the problem it’s possible that they will have to accommodate any restrictions you need which could include moving you to a healthier location or paying you until either your condition or the building improves.
If it sounds like you have to be an advocate for yourself if you think you have sick building syndrome it’s because you do. These injuries aren’t as obvious as slipping and falling on a wet floor or throwing your back out when you are lifting something heavy. So if you know your work building is causing a problem, you also need to be able to prove it. Going to OSHA and getting a lawyer are honestly the first two steps. These cases are difficult, but winnable.