Mold is a completely natural element outdoors. Mold feeds off of organic matter like rotting wood, dead animals, and decomposing foliage to keep the earth free from decaying materials. However, mold has no place in the workplace. Indoors, mold can be a cause for health issues, which can be dangerous when mold spores are inhaled.
A runny nose can mean more than just a cold. In the workplace, dark and damp areas can be a great place for mold colonies to form. Unfortunately, people and mold don't work well together as mold can cause ill health effects to the immunocompromised. Health issues that arise from the mold can also be a cause for alarm for employers, as any mold-affected area is a health code violation.
In this article, we'll tackle the dangers of mold, and how to remove mold in the workplace to prevent any unwanted accidents. If your workplace is starting to have musty smells, particularly around moist areas, then you most probably have a mold issue on your hands.
What Causes Molds in the Workplace?
Mold loves moisture. There are mold spores within the air ready to stick into any viable surface where they can grow a colony, and have ample supply of moisture. There are plenty of reasons to get mold in the workplace, and the bathroom is just one of the few environments that can easily harbour a mold problem. Wet furnishings often grow mold overtime, and grout can also be a spot where mold likes to hide.
If your workplace has wet materials, especially organic materials like cardboard and wood, then chances are spores have already moved into that prime real estate. Anything from indoor humidity to a leaking roof can nurture an environment for mold to grow.
Uneaten and Rotting Food
Food from the last company potluck may still be in the fridge even after a month or so? Those once-delectable treats are now probably riddled with mold spores and growths that can be dangerous to the health! Avoid eating these, and throw away any mold-infested food. Plastic and disposable containers should be thrown out as well to keep people from eating from these utensils.
At least once a week, do an inspection of the office fridge. Throw out any old food that may be rotting, and separate fresh food from old ones. Especially if your workplace is in a restaurant, moldy food is a big risk for health code violations, so best to throw these out before anyone has a chance to eat them.
Unfortunately, once mold has made a sizable colony in the workplace, it is incredibly difficult to remove. Even after removal, spores from the previous colonies can grow more mold in workplace areas, causing occupational safety risks for employees.
There are aging structures that have what is called "Sick Building Syndrome," where old buildings are refurbished into new homes and offices. However, if the building was not properly constructed, it can have pipe leaks that lead to mold growth, eventually getting the occupants of the building sick. The mold colony could have been growing for decades unnoticed, and spores spread through construction activities.
The Health Risks and Disadvantages of Having Mold in the Workplace
Mold exposure is typically non-life threatening. However, if the mold has become too big to handle, then there are health concerns that come with the mold, such as respiratory infections from inhaling mold spores. Some types of mold, such as toxic black mold Stachybotrys chartarum, can even be deadly if not treated immediately.
Besides respiratory infections, mold exposure can cause allergic reactions, hypersensitivity pneumonitis, and other health problems particularly to the immunocompromised. Unfortunately, inflammations like hypersensitivity pneumonitis may be misdiagnosed as pneumonia, but antibiotics do not cure the illness.
Mold in the workplace is also dangerous to the structural integrity of the building. Mold feeds off of organic material such as wood and natural fibres, which can be found in the majority of offices and workplaces. Mold can spread into the cracks of the structural foundation, which could have been weakened by leaking pipes over time.
The damage of mold is most dangerous in wood-framed buildings, as mold feeds off wooden poles that hold the building together. The dark stains in wooden accents already show the presence of mold, which connotes that mold is more or less present in the wooden frames.
Air Quality Degradation
The air quality also suffers with mold exposure, as mold produces an unlimited amount of spores to grow new colonies. Even after mold removal, spores may stay in the air, ready to latch onto any moist surface. The air quality will need to be purified to completely remove the mold in the workplace.
How to Prevent Molds in the Workplace
As an employee, report mold in the workplace as you see it. Inform your manager immediately of the mold colony, and that poses a health risk to the employees and the people who take office in the workplace. Companies have the responsibility to create safe working conditions to employees, which includes providing a mold-free zone to get the work done.
Reporting the mold as soon as possible will prevent the colony from growing, and the business can start to operate on mold remediation to ensure that there are no ill health effects from the mold. The first thing to do is to find the areas where mold could grow, which is the same as the source of moisture.
Any leaking faucets or pipes should be repaired immediately. Repair leaks before they damage the workplace interior, and before mold spores can latch onto the moist surfaces. Air conditioners should be kept at a dry setting, and inspected for any leaks or mold in the filter.
Any recent moisture or water damage should be assessed and dried immediately, and the management should bring public awareness to the workers about bringing in rain drips through their umbrellas and materials. If the office has carpeted flooring, frequent moisture from rained-on umbrellas can start a mold colony.
Keep Mold Away
The employer has the responsibility to keep workers safe, and this includes providing a hazard-free working environment for their team members. Mold exposure is one of the leading causes of allergies and asthma, which can be dangerous to the workers, and cause the company to hinder production when employees are sick.