Occupational Health & Safety

How To Handle Scent Situations

How to Handle 'Scent-Sensitive Situations' 
Guidelines for Students, Staff, Faculty

The following is designed to provide some guidelines for the handling of what is a sensitive issue for many people. How do you deal with complaints in the office, in the classroom, and in public spaces at the university?

  1. For Employees and Supervisors
  2. For Professors, Lecturers and Teaching Assistants
  3. For Students
  4. For All Members of the Saint Mary's Community

1) For Employees and Supervisors

If you are an employee who suffers reactions to scented products and there is a scent in your surroundings that is causing you to have a reaction, you should do the following:

  • If the scent is being worn by someone in your office and you know the person well, you could approach them directly. Explain what the problem is — what you think you are reacting to and explain the kind of reaction(s) the fragrance triggers.
  • Ask him or her to visit this web site for more information.
  • Ask your co-worker to consider switching to unscented products.
  • If you feel that direct contact with the scent would worsen your reaction or if you don't feel comfortable approaching the person wearing the scent, speak to your supervisor. If necessary ask your supervisor to relocate you to another area until the scent is gone.
  • If you become ill, follow the normal procedures for reporting illness at work. Upon your return to work, file an Accident/ Incident Report Form and circulate the copies as indicated on the bottom of the form.
  • If the situation does not improve, seek further advice from Health Services.

If you have sensitivities towards scents and start working in a new department, or you have recently developed an adverse reaction to fragrance:

  • Tell your supervisor and co-workers.
  • Explain what causes your reactions and what kind of problems you are experiencing. Ask for their assistance. Offer more information by directing them to this web site.
  • Ask your supervisor to alert those people responsible for facilities management in your building so they can warn you when activities such as painting, varnishing, fumigating or carpet cleaning are scheduled.

If you are a supervisor and you have an employee in your department who suffers from health problems triggered by scents:

  • Be proactive. Talk to the employee so he or she knows that you are approachable about the subject. If the employee reports a problem to you, respond as quickly as possible.

If the employee reports a problem to you:

  • Get the employee away from the scent that is causing the problem.
  • Discreetly approach the employee who is wearing the scent and politely discuss the problem. Point out that the University has a Scent Awareness Initiative and encourage the employee to visit this web site for more information.
  • Get back to the employee who is experiencing a reaction with an account of what has been done on her/his behalf. Continue to monitor the situation until the problem has been corrected.
  • If the problem persists, contact Health Services for advice.

If you are an employee who is wearing a scented product(s) and you are approached by another employee or your supervisor:

  • Do not take the request to refrain from using scented products as a personal affront — this is about the impact of chemicals on people, not about you.
  • Work with others to find out what product or products are causing the reaction.
  • Become part of the solution and switch to fragrance-free products.

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2) For Professors, Lecturers and Teaching Assistants

If you are a professor, lecturer or teaching assistant who suffers reactions to scented products and there is scent in your classroom that is causing you to have a reaction, you should do the following:

  • Inform students that the university has a Scent Awareness Initiative (it would be helpful for you to remind students of the program at the first class of each term.)
  • Direct them to this web site so they can learn more.
  • Explain the impact that scented products have on you personally.
  • Ask the class to become part of the solution and stop wearing scented products to your class or anywhere on campus.

If the situation persists, discreetly approach the student or students who are wearing the scent.

  • Explain what the problem is and what kind of reaction(s) the fragrance triggers.
  • Again direct them to this web site and ask them to switch to wearing unscented products.

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3) For Students

If you are a student having reactions to your roommate's/neighbor's scents in residence:

  • If you know the person well and feel comfortable with him or her, you could approach him or her directly. Explain what the problem is — what you think you are reacting to and explain what kind of reaction(s) the fragrance triggers.
  • Ask him or her to visit this We Share The Air web site for more information.
  • Ask your roommate/neighbor to consider switching to unscented products.
  • If you feel that direct contact with the scent would worsen your reaction or if you don't feel comfortable approaching the person wearing the scent, tell your Resident Assistant and they will talk with him or her.
  • If this a serious problem that may require alternative arrangements, contact the Residence Life Manager in your residence.

If you're having a reaction to the scented products worn by your classmate(s) or if it's a fragrance (or fragrances) worn by a particular classmate:

  • If you know the person well and feel comfortable with him or her, you could approach her directly. Explain what the problem is — what you think you are reacting to and explain what kind of reaction(s) the fragrance triggers.
  • Ask her or him to visit the university's We Share The Air web site for educational information.
  • Ask your classmate if he or she would consider switching to unscented products.
  • If you feel that direct contact with the scent would worsen your reaction or if you don't feel comfortable approaching the person wearing the scent, approach your professor or the teaching assistant and ask that they speak to your classmates about the matter.
  • If the problem continues, seek help Health Services.

If you are a student who is wearing a scented product(s) and you are approached by another student or your professor:

  • Do not take the request to refrain from using scented products as a personal affront — this is about the impact of chemicals on people, not about you.
  • Work with others to find out what product or products are causing the reaction.
  • Become part of the solution and switch to fragrance-free products.

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4) For All Members of the Saint Mary's Community

If you are having a reaction to a scented product on campus:

  • You could approach the person wearing the fragrance directly. Explain what the problem is — what you think you are reacting to and explain what kind of reaction(s) the fragrance triggers.
  • Tell them where they can get information. Direct the person to this web site.
  • Ask the person wearing the fragrance if he or she would consider switching to unscented products.
  • If you feel that direct contact with the scent would worsen your reaction or if you don't feel comfortable approaching the person wearing the scent, approach the person working at the counter, or their supervisor, to see if they will talk with the person.

If you are wearing a scented product(s) and you are approached by someone who is chemically sensitive or someone acting on their behalf:

  • Do not take the request to refrain from using scented products as a personal affront — this is about the impact of chemicals on people, not about you.
  • Work with others to find out what product or products are causing the reaction.
  • Become part of the solution and switch to fragrance-free products.

In every situation where you must confront someone about the scented products they are wearing, REMEMBER THAT EDUCATION IS THE KEY in this initiative. Many people don't know about Saint Mary's University Scent Awareness Initiative. Sometimes there are cultural differences to take into account. The best approach in this situation is to:

  • Approach the person discreetly.
  • Clearly and courteously explain why Saint Mary's has a Scent Awareness Initiative and the benefits of adopting scent-free practices.
  • Direct the person to where they can get further information (web site and brochure).

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