According to the National Health Survey, around 4.6 million Australians, or 19.3 per cent of the population suffer from some degree of allergic rhinitis (hay fever). Although these numbers seem alarmingly high, the reality is that allergic rhinitis is just one form of the many allergies plaguing our nation, which is why Australia is often referred to as the “allergy capital of the world”. Eczema, Hay Fever, Allergic Asthma, Food Allergies, Insect Allergies and Drug Allergies are just some of them.
With the rates of allergies so high and hay fever season at its peak, what are some steps you can take as an office manager to reduce allergies in the workplace? Regular cleaning with the help of a facility cleaning service may help. Here’s how:
Common Allergy Triggers:
The most common causes of allergens include:
- Dust mites
- Animal dander
- Mould spores
- Cigarette smoke
- Fumes from cleaning products
6 Ways to Reduce Allergens At Work:
1. Get Rid of Dust Mites
One of the biggest culprits of allergies in the workplace is dust mites, which are tiny bugs living in dust particles that may be lingering everywhere in the office, from carpet fibres and blinds, on furniture to cluttered desks, behind filing cabinets and in old paperwork.
Exposure to dust mites can result in sneezing, runny noses, itchy, red eyes, coughing and difficulty breathing. Employees who suffer from dust allergies might find it difficult to focus on their work responsibilities, which can affect their productivity. To keep dust mites at bay, it is important to vacuum all carpets regularly, dust all hard surfaces with a clean, microfibre cloth and regularly steam clean any upholstery or other fabrics in your workplace. The eggs of dust mites may be carried into the workplace on employees’ clothes, which is why regular commercial cleaning is imperative. In between cleaning sessions, an air purifier can help remove dust particles from the air, keeping your office environment clean and healthy for your employees.
Any facility cleaning service you hire should use high powered vacuums with HEPA filters so any dust being vacuumed does not get redistributed into the air.
2. Encourage Employees to Keep Desks Clear
Apart from carpets, clutter is the second place where dust mites may be hiding. A stack of paperwork that hasn’t been moved in weeks will collect dust and debris, offering the perfect space for bacteria and dust mites to flourish. Ask your employees to clear out all clutter from their desks at the end of each week, and then ask your commercial cleaners to thoroughly dust and disinfect all desks and surfaces at least weekly.
3. Avoid Harsh Cleaning Chemicals
Many employees may be allergic to the chemicals or fragrances used in cleaning products. As an employer, it is your job to provide your employees with a safe working space. Asking your commercial cleaning service to switch to a greener alternative when it comes to their cleaning practices will not only ensure fewer allergic attacks all around but is also better for the environment. Some chemicals may use volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which negatively impact the lungs when inhaled regularly. Some other chemicals to be aware of include ammonia, formaldehyde, sodium hypochlorite, d-limonene and sodium lauryl sulfate.
4. Remove All Mould
A type of fungi that grows and multiplies in damp, humid and warm environments, mould spreads by producing spores. These spores can irritate the inner lining of your nose, causing itchy, runny noses, sneezing, irritated, swollen eyes, dry and scaly skin and congestion. If the spores make it to your lungs, they can also trigger severe asthma attacks and damage your immune system.
To get rid of mould and prevent its regrowth, first ensure that humidity levels are kept low, around 50%. You may have to invest in dehumidifiers to achieve this, especially if you live in a tropical or subtropical area of Australia. Ask your cleaners to regularly clean air conditioner filters, use mould killing products in areas with existing mould growth and keep on top of removing any regrowth. It is also imperative that any water damage is promptly addressed to reduce chances of mould growth.
5. Minimise Pollens
While pollen levels may be highest outside, the minuscule particles can make it inside through open windows, on the clothes or under the shoes of employees and customers, or inside fresh flowers placed in your reception. Where possible, minimise pollens from entering the premises by keeping windows closed during peak pollen times (early morning until noon), using artificial flowers instead of fresh flowers and investing in air purifiers with HEPA filters to keep the circulating air clean.
6. Regularly clean carpets
Ideally, there should be no carpeted areas in your office. Carpet fibres are notorious for harbouring dust mites, pollen, mould spores and all kinds of bacteria, and no amount of vacuuming can get rid of all of them. Additionally, if any of your employees have pets, any pet hair or dander they carry on their clothes can get trapped in your carpets, triggering allergies. If you do have carpeted areas, consider getting them removed. If this isn’t a possibility, ask your commercial cleaners to regularly steam clean carpets to reduce the spread of allergens.
Confused about what further steps you can take to make your workplace a comfortable environment for the allergy sufferers on your team? Try talking to your facility cleaning service providers. By working together, you can get to the root of the problem and devise appropriate methods to tackle it.