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Mold exposure in the office or any other workplace environment can cause grave health issues to employees. Unfortunately, even though nobody likes being exposed to these types of fungi, they occur naturally in the environment. Employers are responsible and held accountable for health and safety regulations. This includes mold exposure when it affects their employees.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act mandates all employers to take reasonable precautions to ensure workplace safety. Mold infestation in your workplace produces powerful mycotoxins that affect human health. They can exacerbate allergic reactions, asthma, fungal infections, pneumonitis, and other respiratory illnesses. Therefore, employers should take all the necessary precautions to prevent mold growth in their workplace.
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What Promotes Mold Growth?
As mentioned, this type of fungus occurs naturally in the environment. It releases spores that occur and float naturally in the air. The spores are very tiny or microscopic and harmless in small quantities. However, in large quantities, spores can produce specific symptoms of exposure, primarily allergic reactions in children and people with respiratory sensitivities.
The growth of these types of fungi is promoted by the presence of water or moisture, oxygen, and food materials. Food materials can include paper, wood, and other organic materials. This is because these fungi feed on host materials, often causing structural damage in the long term. Mold spores that land on warm, damp spots start reproducing. Since you can’t limit oxygen and food materials, the best way to prevent growth of these types of fungi in the workplace or any other property is to control moisture.
Signs of Mold Exposure in the Workplace
Mold in the workplace is an occupational health and safety problem. Catching its effects early might be difficult but the following are signs of possible exposure:
- Respiratory issues. Breathing issues are probably the first signs of exposure. This is because the spores are microscopic and can be inhaled easily into the respiratory system. Your employees may report chest tightening or wheezing, or they may start coughing. Moreover, the symptoms are severe for patients with asthma.
- Skin irritations. Employees allergic to mold can experience various skin issues, including rashes, severe irritations, and infections.
- Hypersensitivity in allergic persons. Employees can develop hypersensitivity to mold toxins due to extended exposure to specific strains. However, these reactions are not limited to specific types. Some people can react to all mold strains depending on their hypersensitivity.
- Fatigue, pain, and aches. General symptoms of exposure to mold spores include coughing, headache, itching, eye irritations, and nausea. Employees may also feel discomfort, which decreases their productivity.
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How to Prevent Mold Growth in the Workplace
Preventing mold growth in the workplace is a collaborative effort that involves the following actions:
1. Clear Accumulating Water or Moisture
Mold love and grow where there is moisture. Therefore, the first step to preventing its growth in your business is ensuring that your office buildings are free from moisture or excessive humidity. You should also ensure that no part of the office provides the warm and damp conditions that favor mold growth. Previously flooded areas should be cleared and dried thoroughly.
Regulating your temperatures is the first step toward controlling humidity and condensation in the office. While it can be tempting to reduce your office temperatures during the summer, you shouldn’t drop the temperatures way low. This is because using an air conditioner to reduce in-house temperatures can increase condensation. Therefore, it is best to use fans that keep air moving while setting temperatures at reasonable levels.
A humidifier is the other possible solution for controlling humidity if other solutions aren’t effective. A humidifier significantly reduces humidity and condensation in the office. However, when shopping for a humidifier, find one suitable for your office size. You can also install multiple small models to humidity hot spots in the office.
2. Repair Water Leaks
Water damage caused by leaks is among the leading causes of mold growth. Therefore, if you have a leaking wall, roof, or faulty water faucet, initiate immediate repair so that it doesn’t create a conducive environment for growth of these types of fungi. You should regularly monitor your building for damp walls or leakages. If you discover a leak, repair and dry the damp materials by exposing them to sunlight.
Severe water leaks, such as in basement walls may require intervention from expert water damage restoration experts. You can be sure of dry basement walls that cannot promote fungal growth by hiring professionals. Repairing faulty or leaking taps prevents mold growth and recurrence. Expect mold to recur if you remove growth around the leak without replacing or repairing the faucet.
3. Inspect Your Business Building Routinely
Apart from repairing water damage, you should inspect your building regularly for visible signs of mold growth. Regular inspection is the best way to detect and prevent its growth in early stages. Your inspection should focus on the following areas where mold thrive;
- Basements and attics
- Kitchens, especially below the sink
- Under the carpets
4. Avoid Tightly Sealed Windows and Doors
Mold growth, especially on windows, occurs due to infiltration and condensation. Therefore, you should keep these conditions in check to prevent mold growth in the workplace. Tips to prevent condensation include:
- Open your windows regularly. You should open your office windows any time the weather permits. This will allow natural airflow inside while keeping the window frames dry.
- Clean windows and window frames regularly. Regular cleaning prevents the accumulation of dust, which typically contributes to mold growth. Clean using a soft cloth with warm water and mild soap.
- Wipe your office windows and frames daily to prevent infiltration and condensation.
- Keep your workplace heated to reduce condensation on the walls.
- Leave a few inches of space between office walls and furniture.
Work with Mold Removal Professionals
While the above efforts can prevent mold growth in the workplace, these types of fungi are stubborn and can thrive in some places, especially hard-to-reach areas, such as the inside walls and corners behind furniture. These are hidden places where mold can grow and mature unnoticeably. Molds have also evolved, and some species can thrive in unusual areas and conditions.
Therefore, you should consider working with mold removal professionals for prevention and remediation. Experts are trained to provide thorough residential and commercial mold remediation.
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