Determination of causes

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Graded modular organised investigation strategy
Source: IFA

The causes for complaints at indoor workplaces are diverse and investigating them tends to be a difficult task. Affected employees make subjective assumptions about what has triggered the problem, often leading any investigation of the matter in the wrong direction. For instance, employers can end up commissioning expensive air pollution measurements when, actually, it is inadequate lighting that has caused the health complaints.

As the resources and options available for identifying the causes of indoor workplace health problems are limited, numerous experts of the social accident insurance institutions developed a concept for identification of the causes several years ago which has proven in the field meanwhile.

The first step in this concept is to determine the nature and incidence of the health complaints. An initial investigation of the work environment is necessary at this stage too in order to narrow down the probable causes. Finally, this is also a good time to conduct a workplace inspection and interviews with the employees affected. The inspection and interview team should include the organisation's occupational physician and OSH professional.

Based on the results specific investigations on the different issue(s) can then be carried out independently (see Figure).

The whole concept of cause investigation is compiled in the report "Indoor workplaces - Recommended procedure for the investigation of working environment" which contains a wealth of background information. This information not only serves to solve problems in response to complaints but also serves at the same time as a basis for the redesign of workplaces in indoor areas.