As an employer, you’re accountable to health and safety regulations that require you to ensure that your employees work in a safe and healthy environment. In Ontario, these regulations come under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA), which mandates that employers “take all reasonable precautions to protect the health and safety of workers.” In turn, employees can also refuse to work provided they determine that the workplace fails to comply with the OHSA.
Certainly, the presence of mold in the workplace is an occupational health and safety problem. It may be difficult to catch its effects earlier on, but look for these five signs of mold exposure.
1. Respiratory Issues from Mold
Mold spores are small enough (and can be made even smaller by thunderstorms) to be inhaled by your employees. Indoors, mold spores have a smaller space in which to flow, thus increasing the chances of your employees being affected.
Respiratory issues are among the common first signs of a mold infection. There are a number of major symptoms, among them wheezing, coughing, chest tightening and/or shortness in breath.
In addition, those with existing respiratory problems – such as asthma – may exhibit intensified and exacerbated symptoms. In fact, according to a study upwards of 42% of workers reported that mold spores had triggered their existing asthma. In fact, mold can raise the risk of asthma symptoms by 30% to 50%.
2. Skin Irritation from Mold
Those allergic to mold fungi can exhibit various skin problems ranging from irritation, rashes or even skin infections. To identify if this is the case, be sure to pay attention to whether your staff complain about and/or exhibit itching or skin problems. Additional symptoms include pigment or colour changes, scars and ‘leathery’ skin patches.
3. Sinus Issues
Mold is a common cause for triggering sinus problems, which can manifest through a number of symptoms including, among others, headaches, congestion and sinus pressure. This is caused by a fungal infection in the sinus system and can, at least in some cases, escalate into a serious problems requiring surgery. Those with preexisting health problems, including a weaker immune system than average, are also at higher-risk of fungal-based sinusitis or sinus infections.
4. Hypersensitivity in Allergic Individuals
Long-term exposure to certain mold strains can result in employees developing hypersensitivity to mold toxins, which can result in a number of severe health problems should they materialize.
In fact, such reaction need not be limited to just a few mold types, it could spread to “all molds” depending on the person and the extent of their hypersensitivity. Of the areas it can affect, this reaction – described as “hypersensitivity pneumonitis” – can also cause problem to the lungs.
Hypersensitivity pneumonitis can develop through inhaling mold spores. Its symptoms include lung inflammation which can, if left untreated, result in lung scarring. Common symptoms can include dry coughing, chest tightness, chills, shortness of breath and fatigue, among others.
5. Fatigue, Aches and Pain
Finally, common symptoms among a number of employes can include headaches, wheezing, coughing, itching, eye irritation, nausea and other recurring conditions. In addition to causing severe discomfort (which can negatively affect your productivity), these problems can escalate into more serious health problems (e.g. skin infections).
Stop Severe Mold Outbreaks from
Ruining Your Productivity
The only method of stopping any (or all) of these five symptoms of mold exposure is to remove the mold. Otherwise, the workplace is far from being a safe and healthy environment; rather, it can simply be a major health-risk to some of your employees.
Those leasing office space could simply end their leases and move out (or require the property owner to resolve the issue), but some companies may own (or have long-term leases over) their buildings. If you own your workspace, then you’re responsible for removing the mold.
To understand the scope of your mold problem, you must start with a professionally conducted Designated Substances Survey (DSS). A DSS will confirm whether a hazardous mold outbreak is present on-premise and is a required first step ahead of any construction or renovation work.
If the mold outbreak exceeds 10 square feet, then its removal must be done by a professional environmental contractor. This is to ensure several things, foremost the safety of those involved in removing the mold and that of your employees (and other tenants) during the removal work.
Type 2 (10-100 sq. feet) and Type 3 (100+ sq. feet) mold remediation work require workers who are in those projects to comply with strict government regulations. These include wearing proper Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) such as gloves, goggles, breathing masks and disposable bodysuits. In addition, they must have polyethylene bags and drop-sheets.
In addition, these workers must have HEPA (High Efficiency Particulate Air) vacuums and antibacterial soaps and solutions. This is to ensure that the worksite is thoroughly cleaned of any and all mold spores. Finally, mold remediation workers should also be insured and, if the extent of the work requires it, decontamination sites to prevent mold from returning.
Overall, it’s obvious that a proper mold removal job requires the services of a professional mold removal company. Not only do need the right tools (e.g. PPE and HEPA vacuums), but the right experience and support (e.g. insurance) to get mold fully removed and, above all, to prevent it from returning to your workspace.
If this isn’t done correctly, then not only would you be on the hook for costly repair work the first time, but additional repair work to fix for the insufficient job. In addition, the productivity of your business will suffer as your employees get affected by the mold problem.
FERRO Environmental is fully equipped to handle Type 2 and Type 3 mold remediation work at your workplace. Be it properly identifying the scale of the problem and fixing it to providing solid financing plans to help accelerate the mold removal process, we provide it. Contact us today to discuss how we can begin restoring your office into a clean and healthy space.