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Scents in the workplace

Dealing with a scent situation can be a sensitive undertaking. There is a delicate balance between expressing your concern to the individual and appearing to be confrontational. Due to the health concerns arising from exposure to scented products (see below for examples) staff and visitors are asked to be considerate in their use of such products when working at or visiting the University. You are also asked to be aware that they may be requested to refrain from using such products should this be required.

Can scents cause health problems?

Exposure to scented products can adversely affect a person’s health. In sufficient concentrations, scented products may trigger responses to those with allergies or chemical sensitivities. Allergic and asthmatic people, as well as those with other conditions, report that exposure to scented products, even in the smallest amounts, can trigger a response. Reported symptoms can include, but are not limited to:

  • Headaches, migraines
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Light headedness
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Malaise
  • Confusion 
  • Anxiety
  • Numbness
  • Difficulty with concentration
  • Upper respiratory symptoms
  • Sinus congestion
  • Skin irritation
  • Loss of appetite

The severity of these symptoms can vary. Some may only experience mild irritation while others can be incapacitated.

What should I do if I have a multiple chemical sensitivities?

For employees:

  • If you feel uncomfortable approaching the individual directly, speak with your supervisor.
  • Direct them to this web page for more information. Education is the key when discussing the situation.
  • Post a Scent Free Poster in your building or work area.
  • If necessary ask your supervisor to relocate you to another area until the scent is gone.
  • If the situation persists contact USQSafe for further assistance.

For supervisors:

  • Approach the individual discreetly. Explain to the individual that scented products can cause health issues for some people.
  • Clearly and courteously explain the benefits of adopting scent-free practices. Remember most people are unaware of the negative impact scented products have on some people.
  • Explain what the problem is and discuss how the conflict could be resolved, e.g. by asking them to wear a lighter scent, or less of it.
  • The supervisor should approach the individual to discuss how the issue could be resolved. On reaching a resolution, the supervisor should document and inform all parties of what has been agreed.
  • Post a Scent Free Poster in your building or work area.
  • Keep the individual with the sensitivity informed of what has been done on his/her behalf.
  • Continue to monitor the situation until it has been resolved.

For teaching staff:

  • Attempt to maintain a scent free environment in you classrooms and labs.
  • If a student approaches you with a scent concern discreetly approach the individual(s) wearing the scent and inform the individual(s) of the scent sensitivities some of their classmates possess.
  • Encourage students to wear scent-free alternatives.

For individuals who have been approached about their scented personal products:

  • Do not take offence.
  • Consider switching to a scent-free alternative.

 Scent situations can also be brought to the attention of your local workplace health and safety committee.