What Every Employer Should Know
Look for Signs of Mold
With all of this attention, you may think that mold infestation is something new or uncommon. It is not. Mold is present in all buildings in some form and quantity. However, certain species of mold spores, in large enough concentrations, can be toxic. Although the health problems of mold exposure are in debate, there is literature tying some health effects to mold exposure. People with immune-compromised systems may experience permanent health effects.Physical symptoms related to exposure to mold or sick building syndrome include eye, nose and throat irritation; respiratory complaints; skin irritation; nausea; dizziness and fatigue. Alert your human resources department and/or office manager to be aware of any such symptoms. If numerous employees complain, or if employees complain of moldy smells, put the building owner on notice and request an investigation. If you own the building, consider hiring an air quality investigator. Although these symptoms could result from other factors, it is important to address them.
Look For the Cause
Mold needs water or moisture and oxygen to grow. Water does not have to flow into the building for there to be enough moisture to promote the growth of mold. Although one-time leaks or burst water pipes may not be a problem if repaired, even a one-time leak, if not properly addressed, can cause unacceptable mold growth. There are a number of potential causes of moisture or water entry:
- Lack of building maintenance
- Poor building design or construction
- Using wet building materials
- Leaky pipes, windows, or doors
- Regular, or even one-time flooding
- Simple plumbing mistakes
- Excessive humidity and condensation
- Improper landscaping design or maintenance outside the building, causing water to flow toward the building
- Any other serious water related problem
- Address Moisture or Water Issues Promptly
If your building is experiencing water penetration, consistent moisture or leaks, demand that the landlord investigate the cause and promptly provide you with an action plan. If the landlord does not act, put it on notice that you intend to act and that you will hold it responsible for the costs. Give notice to your insurer. Do the same if you are the building owner.
Call in professionals to make an assessment. To stop further mold growth, the landlord or you must investigate and fix the source of the water or moisture. Ask for the help of contractors, the building designer and environmental experts to assess, identify and repair the source. A number of companies investigate mold and will come up with action plans to address it. Responding to mold involves more than just determining and fixing the source of the water. Often several experts must be retained, including experts in toxicology and epidemiology. Expert testing may cost thousands of dollars. If mold is found in large enough concentrations, the building must be cleaned and remediated to ensure the safety of the occupants before they return. Once the problem is fixed, ask the expert to certify that the building is "clean," or demand such a certification from the landlord.