Mold in the Workplace

Posted by Melissa Hall in #YHSafetyTips, May 15, 2019

Mold can grow indoors with moisture or water, oxygen, and an organic source. Mold reproduces by creating tiny spores, that usually require magnification to be seen. About 1000 species of mold can be found in the United States, all of which can be grown without sunlight with the presence of a viable seed, nutrient source, moisture, and the right temperature.

Mold is often found in damp, dark, hidden spaces, and can grow on virtually any substance. Indoor mold should be avoided, as mold will eat away at building materials including wood, carpet, walls and insulation. Most indoor air exposures to mold don’t present a risk of health effects, but some people can experience allergic reactions or asthma attacks, and mold can cause irritation to the eyes, skin, nose, and throat.

How to Control & Prevent Mold

  • Control Moisture
  • Act quickly (within 24 to 48 hours) when a water leak or spill is discovered. Thoroughly cleaning, drying, and removing water-damaged materials will help limit mold growth
  • Conduct a regularly scheduled walkthrough to look for condensation or wet spots, fixing any water leaks if found
  • Maintain your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems
  • All appliances that generate moisture, such as dryers, should be vented outside if possible
  • Keep indoor relative humidity levels at 70 percent or below
  • Check that all buildings have proper draining and that the ground is sloping away from a building’s foundation

How to Determine Whether a Mold Problem Currently Exists

  • Is there visible moisture damage on building materials or furnishings?
  • Have building materials been wet for more than 48 hours?
  • Are there existing moisture problems inside the facility?
  • Have you noticed musty or moldy odors?
  • Are employees reporting health problems that they think are related to mold?
  • Has the building recently undergone remodeling?
  • Has routine maintenance been delayed?

Mold Remediation

If mold is found, you will need to develop a remediation process to safely and effectively remove the mold damaged materials. When planning the remediation, you should assess the extent of the mold problem and note the type of damaged materials. Any outside contractors that are hired should have experience with mold remediation and should follow the recommendations in the EPA’s publication “Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings.”

The remediation plan should involve finding a way to permanently correct the water or moisture problem to avoid future problems with mold. The plan should also include steps to contain and remove moldy building materials, including a way to properly dispose of them.

PPE including skin and eye protection, protective clothing, and respiratory protection should be worn during any remediation work that will disturb mold and cause mold spores to become airborne. OSHA has released a safety and health information bulletin that outlines information about mold in the workplace, but does not have a standard devoted to the control and prevention of mold.

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