Mold in the workplace is a serious concern no matter what the extent and area involved. Public awareness has increased about indoor mold exposure and its negative health effects. It can produce allergic reactions and lead to serious health issues. Any business owner should be cognizant of a mold situation in their place of business and take steps to find it, contain it and eliminate it properly.
Business owners should educate themselves on the properties of mold. They should learn what it is, how it spreads, why and where it grows and the serious health effects that it can cause. It is not an easy remedy to solve since it can be invisible to the naked eye and reproduce very quickly in unexpected areas and environments.
Business owners should know that high humidity levels are breeding grounds for mold and that any standing water, leaks behind walls, flood areas in low-level basements are candidates for mold. The Environmental Protection agency has free leaflets on mold, easily obtained on the Internet or local office. Another excellent source of education is the United States Department of Labor; A Brief Guide to Mold in the Workplace.
Potential Risk Areas—The Search
The search for mold in the workplace can be complex and taxing. Mold spores produce a fungus, and according to the Center for Disease Control, there is always a small amount growing somewhere—it is unavoidable. The best place to look is in areas of high humidity, like shower areas, locker rooms, food counters, spa or pool areas, bathrooms, kitchens or anywhere with the presence of water. In businesses that use water in the production method, this would include areas where water is spilled on a regular basis, mixed for formulas or processed into steam.
Areas like basements should be checked for leaking water, spillage from water heaters and at the baseboards of walls and foundation slabs. Mold can hide behind wallpaper or drywall or under floor tiles. Outside leaking faucets should be checked for integrity—puddles and moist areas next to the foundation can become contaminated with mold spores and spread to the wall structure. Severe cases of mold give off a very stale, foul odor—your nose can lead you to it.
Small areas under 10 square feet or so can be handled by the business owner or part of the maintenance labor force. It usually requires no more than buying industrial mold cleaning supplies and a serious cleanup. Anything larger than that poses a threat to employees and the general work environment. Serious cases of mold should be handled by a professional crew, particularly a certified contractor listed in the Certified Mold Inspectors & Contractors Institute.
Anyone that must inspect for mold, remove it and disinfect the premises should wear the proper respirators, disposal cover suits and gloves. There are many ways to remove mold, such as using heavy disinfectants machines, or even dry ice blasting equipment available from Sutton-Garten Co.
Precaution and Preventive Maintenance
Business owners should train all employees about the serious condition of mold in the workplace. This involves instruction on keeping high humidity areas dry and ventilated. Doors and windows should be opened periodically to allow fresh air flow. The air conditioner should be activated to reduce high humidity levels during foggy or rainy days.
All serious water spills or leaks should be reported and cleaned up immediately. No damp or wet cloth materials or rotten food items should be left out in the open. All door seals, roof structures, window seams and walls should be inspected regularly for any signs of moisture, water intrusion or plumbing leaks.
Prevention is the best cure for stopping mold in the workplace. Business owners can schedule employees, janitors or the regular maintenance crew to go on the hunt for signs of mold, and it will only require a few hours a week to do so. Prevention and catching mold early on is the best cure for a happy, healthy and productive work environment.