Mold exposure can lead to grave consequences, particularly so in the office or any other workplace environment as this is where employees spend a large portion of their time. Naturally, nobody wants to be exposed to mold, but it happens frequently, as mold naturally exists in our surroundings. Making sure the workplace environment is safe and healthy is one of the top priorities of all employers, and in case anything goes wrong, they are the ones to be held responsible and accountable.
Factors that promote mold growth
As mentioned above, mold occurs naturally in the environment and releases spores that freely float in the air. These spores are practically invisible, microscopic, and quite harmless in small amounts. However, once their number grows, spores can induce specific symptoms of exposure, primarily in people with respiratory conditions.
The presence of moisture, oxygen, and certain food materials promote the growth of mold as they feed on these materials causing structural damage to them. Once mold spores land on warm, wet spots, they start reproducing and with oxygen and organic material being limitless, the best action to take is to limit the amount of moisture in the environment.
Mold exposure signs
Mold in the workplace is an occupational safety and health hazard, and the additional problem is that it’s difficult to notice its effects in the beginning. Typical signs of possible mold exposure include fatigue, aches, eye irritations, skin irritations such as rashes, nausea, and coughing. Most common are various respiratory issues such as difficulty breathing since the spores are easily inhaled, so employees may experience tightening in their chests, particularly those with asthma and allergies. Employees could feel discomfort, which affects their workplace productivity.
Over time, mold exposure can be linked to cancer. Unfortunately, this connection is generally overlooked as a contributing risk factor since many different toxins are linked to cancer. However, for that very reason, mold should be considered as a potential cause as well. Prolonged exposure to mycotoxins from mold can lead to direct cellular damage and cause structural changes in genes that can potentially lead to cancer.
Reducing humidity in the workplace
It’s imperative every employer ensures a safe work environment, but it’s almost impossible to eliminate all mold and spores indoors. What you can do is control excess moisture as this is the key factor that enables indoor mold to grow and spread.
The steps to reducing humidity at the workplace would include using exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens to vent out moisture and using a dehumidifier to eliminate moisture from basement areas. When using dehumidifiers, make sure you drain them regularly, and clean condensation coils and the collection bucket.
Another step is to leave the temperature in damp areas to reduce humidity levels and make sure all indoor spaces allow free air circulation. This means keeping the doors between rooms and offices open, using fans, and arranging office furniture so it doesn’t block air and heat flow.
Ventilation is essential so open the windows regularly whenever the weather permits it. This will enable natural airflow indoors but still keep the window frames dry. Both the windows and frames should be cleaned regularly to prevent dust from piling up as it can promote mold growth.
Sealing the leaks
All the aforementioned methods will have no results if there are leaks as they allow moisture to get in which enables mold growth. In addition to keeping the work environment dry and well aired, make sure all windows, doors, or wall cracks are sealed, as well as plumbing leaks and poorly vented clothes dryers.
Keeping the work environment clean can be of great help in reducing mold growth. Pay particular attention to kitchen sinks and toilets. Scrub the tubs, toilets, and sinks thoroughly at least once a month as fungi thrive on soaps and soap residue. A conventional bathroom or kitchen cleaner should suffice but for more serious problem areas, try using diluted bleach or store-bought fungicides.
Clean garbage bins regularly, as they’re the perfect breeding ground for mold. Also, make sure your storage areas are dry and vented, and that any damp building materials or furnishings are dried within the first 24 to 48 of arrival.
Finally, always wear protective gear when cleaning the mold, which includes gloves, eye protection, and a mask in case there are airborne spores.
Knowing that mold infestation in the workplace is very dangerous and harmful to human health, potentially triggering and worsening asthma, allergic reactions, pneumonitis, and other respiratory illnesses, it’s imperative all the necessary precautions are taken to prevent mold development at the workplace.