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

Free-B Film Festival celebrates 20th anniversary

Head to Victoria’s Beacon Hill Park to see some family favourites on the big screen

Central Saanich accused of not following Climate Emergency declaration with urgent action

Motion to research climate response options and costs rejected then rescheduled in tense meeting

Join North Saanich invasives removal and experience three key benefits

Friends of North Saanich Parks says July 27 clear-up will be rewarding as well as green

Esquimalt gives six-storey rental complex the green light

A new apartment building is set to go up on Admirals Road

Colwood field lacrosse camp aims to get more kids involved

Victoria Field Youth Lacrosse hopes to inspire future athletes

Rich the Vegan scoots across Canada for the animals

Rich Adams is riding his push scooter across Canada to bring awareness to the dog meat trade in Asia

A year later, ceremony commemorates victims of the Danforth shooting

It’s the one-year anniversary of when a man opened fire along the bustling street before shooting and killing himself

Japanese Canadians call on B.C. to go beyond mere apology for historic racism

The federal government apologized in 1988 for its racism against ‘enemy aliens’

B.C. VIEWS: NDP pushes ahead with Crown forest redistribution

This isn’t the time for a radical Indigenous rights agenda

Two dead in two-vehicle crash between Revelstoke and Golden

RCMP are investigating the cause of the crash

Ottawa fights planned class action against RCMP for bullying, intimidation

The current case is more general, applying to employees, including men, who worked for the RCMP

Alberta judge denies B.C.’s bid to block ‘Turn Off the Taps’ bill

He said the proper venue for the disagreement is Federal Court

Canadian high school science courses behind on climate change, says UBC study

Researchers found performance on key areas varies by province and territory

Most Read