Environmental Issue & Sick Building Syndrome Blog

The first visitor to a building after a complete disinfection can contaminate the building as if it was never cleaned. Maintaining a safe and healthy environment is a shared responsibility for occupant and visitor alike. Communication is key to achieving that goal.

Set the expectations at the front door. Post signage indicating that infection control measures must be followed at entrances.

Locally, the effort of Giant Eagle Supermarkets to install clear plexiglass screens between the customers and checkout staff is an excellent example of setting the tone for protecting all people who enter the store. That effort communicates that they want and expect all of us to keep each other safe while in their buildings.        

Signage can begin with a notice at the front door as follows:

 This is a building where infection control is necessary for the health of the staff and visitors

  • Please use the hand sanitizer you will find at the front door as you enter the building. 
  • Masks can be found in a box at the front door. Please use a mask while in this building.
  • Please do not shake hands with staff. It is not that we are unfriendly in this building. We care about you and our staff and wish all good health.
  • Please wash hands after use of restroom facilities and before handling any food, beverage or equipment that will be shared with others. Examples of shared items include copiers, phones, and other equipment.

Educate all staff to basic practices as to the ways you can reduce or slow the spread of infections:

  • Wash your hands frequently. Use paper towels or hand dryers. If leaving a restroom, use the paper towel to open the door to leave the room after hand washing.
  • Stay home if you are sick (so you do not spread the illness to other people).
  • Wipe all commonly used equipment before use. This includes phones, copiers, flashlights, shared desks, fountains, handles on appliances, faucets, etc 
  • Shared autos and trucks are shared close environments in which almost every surface is a touch point and not typically sanitized. This includes steering wheels, door handles, radios, dials, controls and equipment. These should be sanitized. 
  • Use a tissue, or cough and sneeze into your arm, not your hand. Turn away from other people when sneezing, coughing, hacking. 
  • Use single-use tissues. Dispose of the tissue immediately. Do not leave sitting out for reuse.
  • Wash or sanitize your hands after coughing, sneezing or using tissues. 
  • Do not touch your eyes, nose or mouth (viruses can transfer from your hands and into the body).
  • Do not share cups, glasses, dishes or cutlery. Paper plates, plastic silverware and disposable cups are suggested.

Understand and Combat Common Disease Transfer Methods

Airborne - coughs or sneezes release airborne pathogens, which are then inhaled by others. We now know that the minimum safe space is about 6 feet. 

Contaminated objects or food – We now know that the virus can live on most surfaces. That includes all touch points and items that include bags, papers, doorknobs, light switches and anything else you may touch.    

Skin-to-skin contact - the transfer of virus can occur through touch, or by sharing personal items, clothing or objects. The data tells us to ban handshakes.


Posted by Dan Howard on April 1st, 2020 9:48 PM

         It is a fact that caretakers are often more at risk from exposures because they are under stress, have a disrupted routine and are working harder to keep everything OK for the person receiving the care.

Common Disease Transfer Methods

Vectors: This is the fancy word for things such as mosquitos that transfer diseases from one person to another.

Consumption: This is disease that is spread through contaminated food.  


Air transfer: This is airborne transfer between living things. Masks are the best protection for these agents. In some cultures, the sick person has responsibility to wear masks to protect others from infection. Our approach is usually for the person not wanting exposed to wear the mask


Touchpoints: Examples, refrigerator or microwave handle, door knobs, railings, tops of chairs

bathroom fixtures, phones, kitchen appliances, laundry appliances, spigots, handles, remote controls, computers, tables, chair backs and arms, linens, stuffed animals, water fountains and all of your automobile touchpoints.

Common Conditions That Increase Vulnerability from Touchpoints and Air Transfer

                People in close quarters

                Day care, schools, workplace, any enclosed public location

                 Ambulance transfers  

                 Air travel


                Workplace material handling

Modern buildings with energy efficient systems that deny us fresh air

What to Do for “At Risk” People

So now that you have the bejeebers scared out of you, we need to look at what we can do to avoid these exposures. By the way, I never knew what a bejeeber was, but I know I never wanted to have one scared out of me.

  • Consult with your medical professional to determine the areas of greatest risk for the at risk person.
  • Find professionals that understand housing science to evaluate risks and identify sources
  • Do any required testing to determine if actual exposures exist and need corrected
  • Take action to reduce the exposure risk. The medical community calls this “avoidance.” This is a great goal!


Vectors: Eliminate at least one step ion how the vector transfers disease to humans. As an example, if we are talking Zika, eliminate the mosquito, or eliminate the mosquito biting you. This could be proper clothing, repellants or area treatments. Pick the point that will most likely succeed. If you were having a wedding or sports event, you would do an area treatment after eliminating standing water areas.


Consumption: We have the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) charges with the responsibility of checking our food supply. Most of the time, they are successful. It still pays to not take risks such as undercooked meat consumption.


Air Transfer: Teach proper hygiene when it comes to sneezing and coughing. Have contagious persons wear masks, or if they do not wear a mask. Cleaning of HVAC and any other air moving systems may need cleaned. 


Touchpoints: Clean all of the touchpoints with a disinfectant. The use of a Luminometer which tests for

ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) which indicates the presence of any remaining organic contaminants. It is the simplest way to know for certain if a cleaning program is working. There are numerous chemicals that are effective disinfectants. However, for some very serious exposures, there are particular disinfection products that must be used.   

Posted by Dan Howard on August 1st, 2016 10:04 AM



My Favorite Blogs:

Sites That Link to This Blog: