How Employers Can Reduce The Impact Of Allergens On Employees

Allergies affect nearly one-third of American adults and are a common cause of workplace absenteeism. While employers can't do much about the home environments of employees, they can take action to eliminate or lessen allergens in the workplace. Below are several measures that employers can take to minimize the impact of allergens.

Maintain Air Conditioning and Heating Systems

One of the most important steps that employers can take to reduce allergens is maintaining air conditioning and heating systems. These systems can harbor significant quantities of allergens, but regular maintenance can help lower the allergen content.

There are a couple of important air conditioning and heating maintenance tasks that will lessen allergens:

  • Change filters on a regular basis - Most air filters should be changed once per month unless they are designed for extended use. Even then, frequent filter changes are helpful in keeping allergens from accumulating inside the building.

  • Have ducts professionally cleaned - Air ducts can harbor all kinds of air quality inhibitors including mold. Cleaning air ducts is a job for experienced professionals, so be sure to contract with a reputable firm.

  • Seal around doors and windows - Sealing doors and windows helps cut down on air conditioning and heating costs, but it also cuts down on the number of allergens that can enter the building.

Use HEPA Filtration

HEPA (high efficiency particular air) filtration cleans the air of the tiniest of particles, including bacteria and viruses. HEPA filtration is more than capable of removing any particulate matter that can lead to allergy problems for those affected.

When using HEPA filtration, it is important to keep in mind that filters must be maintained on a regular basis. In addition, HEPA filtration does not remove gases and odors, including those that cause allergic reactions in sufferers.

Eliminate Dust Mites

An unknown problem among many individuals, dust mites are tiny, eight-legged arthropods that reside within carpeting and other fabrics. Though dust mites don't bite humans, they do consume dead skin cells and produce potent fecal material known to induce allergic reactions. It is possible for millions of dust mites to live and reproduce within the confines of just a few square feet.

Since dust mites reside in the deep recesses of carpeting and other fabric surfaces, controlling their populations is often best accomplished by removing as much fabric as possible. That means removing rugs and carpets as well as replacing plush office furniture with leather, for example, can help eliminate dust mite infestations.

Dust mites also prefer humid, warm areas over dry, cool spaces, so be sure that you maintain proper air quality, as mentioned above, inside the workplace. For example, the use of dehumidifiers in damp climates can help keep dust mite populations under control.

Monitor the Use of Scented Products

Another cause of allergic responses among some persons are scented products used for air freshening and cleaning. Plug-in air fresheners, spray deodorizers and a host of other products can bring about allergic responses in sensitive individuals.

In addition, other strong scents brought into the work environment, such as those from perfume or cologne, can be problematic for some workers. That means companies may need to clarify policies with employees about what body scents are acceptable to wear to work, for example.

Regularly Clean Facilities

One of the most important steps employers can take to keep allergens from becoming a problem is to have their facilities regularly cleaned. Dust can accumulate on tops of cabinets, behind computers and even on decorations and plants.

In addition, regular cleaning involves frequent vacuuming of rugs and carpeting and cleaning areas where mold growth could become problematic. When cleaning, don't forget about food preparation areas and tossing out old food, as some persons are particularly sensitive to foods and/or their bacterial byproducts. Work with a commercial cleaning service to perform such duties in a timely manner.