The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA


March 29, 2013

Water cooler: Seeking Chemical Independence

Q: Recently my department moved to a different work space, and I've been sitting in a cubicle two feet from a large-capacity printer. Almost immediately, I noticed the constant smell of toner and chemicals, which has given me daily headaches. I have never raised a fuss about anything at work and am generally a conflict-avoidant person. But breathing in chemicals 40 hours a week is not OK with me.

The easy fix would be to move me (not possible at the moment) or the printer to another location. It's not even my department's printer. I've talked to people, trying to find a solution — they don't know where to move the printer, and, of course, others don't want it next to their cubicles. The administrator agreed to turn off the printer temporarily. I've felt much better, but I have no idea what will happen next.

To make matters worse, while the printer is off, people in the department assigned to that printer are now having to walk a bit farther to another one. They complain to people in my department and confront me about it. I stand my ground politely, but I'm flabbergasted as to why this is such a big deal. Any suggestions on how to respond?

A: "I dearly regret the inconvenience I've caused you," in your wheeziest Victorian-heroine-perishing-of-consumption voice.

Your perambulation-averse co-workers may think the pain is all in your head. I don't. Regarding indoor air quality, the federal agencies devoted to occupational health and safety have noted that office equipment can release chemicals known as volatile organic compounds, which may be irritating or even toxic, depending on concentration and length of exposure. The good news, according to the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), is that the concentrations generally found in office work environments fall far below limits set for industrial exposure. Furthermore, a chemical's odor doesn't necessarily correlate to health risk.

Text Only
  • Leaving a job, by decree and by design

    Q: I was laid off nearly a year ago. When I left, I received quite a few warm messages from my colleagues, but such messages soon ended. Since then, former colleagues have reached out to me only when they need something: "How did you deal with this issue?" or "Who were your contacts at this federal agency, as I want to pick them up?"

    July 11, 2014

  • 10 business books for your summer reading list

    Planning on doing some summer reading? Throw one of these books into your beach tote at the suggestion of the experts at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. These reads are meant to help you get ahead in your career, better manage teams, sharpen your leadership skills or just learn something new.

    July 11, 2014

  • Ask the Mompreneur: Lean on social media to expand business

    Are you using the latest social media tools?

    July 10, 2014

  • Working with a workaholic

    QUESTION: I have a co-worker who is a self-described workaholic. He works on weekends and seems to expect me to, as well. I work hard but very much value my work-life balance. How can I manage this situation so that our close working relationship remains positive?

    July 10, 2014

  • Gender bias in workplace may start at home

    I may wear a tight-fitting Superman outfit to work each day, but that doesn’t make me the Man of Steel. (It does, however, make me a frequent visitor to the human resources department —  something about “inappropriate work attire.”)
    The point is, I’m human, and so are you. We may lose track of that fact in the buzz of a busy workday, but our humanness is a constant, and that humanness comes with flaws. We make mistakes. We say things we shouldn’t. And as much as we try to deny it, we carry with us certain biases.

    July 9, 2014

  • Lazy summer days are a time to recharge

    As the temperature rises and the day lengthens, summer slowdown creeps into almost every workplace. But this summer, a growing number of professionals are strategically using the downtime to rebalance.

    July 9, 2014

  • Your Office Coach: Share your expertise, but make sure everyone knows it come from you

    QUESTION: I can’t decide whether to share some information with my colleagues.

    July 8, 2014

  • Your resume should show what you know

    A mid-level manager with hiring responsibilities at a company was frustrated. “Luke“ had just read 84 resumes and was disappointed.

    July 8, 2014

  • colonial06a.jpg Candlecrafter to hang up her wicks

    LEWISBURG — It’s been a heck of a ride, but after 32 years, Pat Hess is ready to call it quits.

    July 7, 2014 1 Photo

  • The Color of Money: Savings forecast: It will always rain

    Saving for an emergency is supposed to be the key to establishing a financial safety net.

    July 7, 2014

Business Video