Mold damage is a common sight in the construction industry. A small plumbing or roof leak can quickly create large areas of mold in a building.
The worst cases come from severely neglected buildings and in the aftermath of flooding. During the repair or even demolition of buildings that have mold damage, workers can face serious illness if they lack proper training or protective equipment.
A warm, moist environment is the breeding ground for mold, and a flood event provides a starting point for severe mold damage. As water seeps under carpets and into walls, moisture is trapped and the mold growth procees begins. In order to safely repair a building, a mold remediation plan and proper removal and protective equipment is needed.
Inhalation is the biggest safety concern. Although not all molds are harmful, spore inhalation of certain molds can cause respiratory problems. This is very dangerous for people who may have breathing conditions like asthma or allergies.
According to WebMD, “Symptoms of mold exposure include wheezing, shortness of breath, sore throats, flu-like aches and pains, and fatigue.” The more vulnerable portions of the population, such as the elderly, children, and those with compromised immune systems, can have more severe reactions.
OSHA recommends the use of respirators during mold remediation. If the area is less than 100 square feet, OSHA suggests either a half-face or full-face N-95, R-95, or P-95 series respirator. For areas over 100 square feet, or where heavy mold or excessive dust is present, a half-face or full-face N-100, R-100, or P-100 respirator should be used.
NIOSH offers a great guide to respirators. Non-vented goggles, gloves, and protective clothing to decrease skin contact with mold should also be worn. Workers are advised to keep food and drink clear of any contamination and to wash any exposed areas carefully.
Correctly training workers who will be part of mold remediation will help keep crews safe. OSHA has produced a brief safety publication to give some guidelines on training. It covers personal protective equipment, cleaning materials, mold sampling, remediation equipment, and remediation techniques. These remediation techniques most often include dust suppression, drying the area, cleaning techniques, and correct disposal of all chemicals and debris.
Large or small, mold can cause big problems. The spores that cause illness are often invisible, and they spread quickly. Every company that is going to be working in or around flood damaged homes should create an effective mold remediation and safety plan.
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