Exposure to mold remains a hot topic in workplace safety and health. Experts recommend these guidelines for handling this widespread exposure:
- You can’t avoid it! Mold is present on all types of surfaces, and even in the air. Because mold is a living organism (fungus), it’s in a constant state of flux: Growing, reproducing, and dying.
- Dry out the problem. Because a lack of moisture will limit the growth of mold inside buildings, removing excess water in your facility can eliminate the fungus.
- Don’t sample from the get-go. This can get expensive if you’re not sure you have a mold problem — and most mold problems require multiple samples. Ask yourself: Can you see mold? Smell it? Do you have a water problem? Are you susceptible to flooding or water damage? What are the seasonal variations of your area? Do you live by a body of water that puts excessive moisture in the air? Do you have a poor or outdated ventilation system in your facility? If you come up with any “yes” answers, talk to an expert about sampling.
- There are no exposure levels for mold. Because humans are exposed to such immunosuppressive drugs as prednisone and chemotherapy and disorders like diabetes, no permissible exposure levels have been set for mold. There’s no proven correlation between mold exposure and health effects.
- Don’t waste your time with bleach! Although bleach will kill actively growing fungi, including the spores, the dead spores can still cause an allergic response.
- Don’t terminate a sick employee because of a mold-related illness. If a worker is convinced that they have a workplace mold allergy and a doctor supports them, it might be more cost-effective to accommodate them. Terminating the employee might leave you wide open to a lawsuit. Because there’s little legislation on mold, a claim can easily get down to a “battle of the experts” that could get pricey. If possible, offer such options as telecommuting to accommodate the worker. If you can’t reach an accommodation, have a competent expert combat the claim and speak to your attorney before terminating them.
Our risk management specialists would be happy to help you develop a mold control program — just give us a call.