In this workplace safety review the environmental hygiene specialists at WTS provide practical guidance on how to prevent mould in the workplace.
The article explains how and where mould and dampness problems can occur in workplace environments, along with the health risks that these problems can cause. The article concludes by giving ten practical steps landlords, building owners and facilities managers can take to prevent mould problems at work.
Preventing mould in the workplace
Many of us are familiar with the problem of mould growth in the home. Bathrooms and other high humidity areas with high levels of moisture in the air are particularly prone to developing mould, which can be problematic for health, tricky to remove and unsightly too.
It’s not just in domestic settings where mould can start to cause problems. Mould can appear both indoors and out, and although more commonly associated with colder periods of the year, it can be an issue all year-round.
Offices and other workplaces aren’t immune to mould problems either. Mould can quickly develop in these buildings too, especially if the building has suffered water damage, is very humid or has an ongoing issue with damp. Unless steps are taken to deal with the problem quickly, the mould can grow and spread, rapidly becoming a much larger issue that can affect the health of staff and visitors, general productivity and the integrity of the building fabric.
Mould health risks at work
We often refer to just “mould”, but there are around one hundred common types of mould. Many of these have the potential to cause health problems for staff and customers if they come into contact with the mould as part of their working day.
There is a wide range of health conditions which can be caused by exposure to mould, or more correctly, to the spores which moulds release in to the air. These health problems can include:
- Nasal stuffiness and congestion
- Irritation around the eyes
- Nose bleeds
- Wheezing or other breathing difficulties.
Symptoms can be much more severe in people who are allergic to moulds, or who have underlying medical conditions such as asthma.
Employers have a duty of care to workers and customers to do what they can to minimise all risks to health and this includes mould.
10 things you can do to prevent mould
Prevention is always better than cure when it comes to tackling mould and its related health conditions. Employers do have a responsibility to safeguard the health of their workforce by recognising the potential risks from mould, and take steps firstly to prevent the building from getting too damp. This should reduce the risk of providing the right conditions for mould to develop and cause problems. Here are our top ten things that all workplaces can do to try to combat moisture, and prevent mould from developing:
1. Deal with leaks as soon as they are spotted
Deal with any leaks and plumbing issues as soon as they are detected. Don’t leave dripping pipes or any minor maintenance issues.
2. Identify the root-cause of any dampness
Identify areas where leaks have been an issue in the past, and try to get to the root cause of the leaks. Try to take preventative measures so that leaks don’t happen in the same place again.
3. Identify areas susceptible to condensation
Try to identify any wet spots or areas of condensation in the building, and try to address these areas of potential moisture as soon as possible.
4. Introduce measures to prevent high humidity and condensation
Look for ways of preventing condensation from developing by either increasing surface temperature, or reducing the levels of moisture in the air. This can be done by increasing air circulation, or improving levels of insulation. Moisture in the air can be tackled by increasing ventilation, installing dehumidifiers or repairing leaks inside the building.
5. Keep heating and ventilation equipment in good order
Maintain your heating, ventilation and air-conditioning, making sure drip pans are clean and unobstructed.
6. Introduce a maintenance programme
Have a regular programme to maintain your heating system, and change the filters according to manufacturer recommendations.
7. Keep humidity levels low
Try to keep indoor relative humidity under 70%, lower where possible.
8. Keep high humidity areas are well ventilated
Identify moisture-generating appliances like dryers and ensure they are vented externally. Ensure that cooking areas or bathrooms are ventilated according to local Building Regulations.
9. Tackle dampness as soon as it’s spotted
Deal with damp or wet spots as soon as they are detected; certainly within 48 hours of them being noticed.
10. Keep your drains, gutters and downpipes in good condition
Inspect your drainage, ensuring that water is not gathering around the foundations of your building.
Mould analysis, damp diagnosis and remediation
Identifying potential problems in a building and suggesting ways to reduce moisture is an area which requires experience and expertise. If you don’t have the specialist knowledge in-house, then it makes sense to get in an external consultancy such as WTS which employs construction experts who can sample any mould spores which you have discovered, and identify what might be causing the problem.
The experts at WTS are also best placed to establish whether the mould could be hazardous to health, and can make recommendations about which steps would be most effective in firstly clearing the existing mould, and then preventing it from returning in the future.
Specialist mould testing and remediation solutions
WTS offer a comprehensive range of mould testing and remediation solutions to help you rid your buildings of problematic mould growth and so safeguard the health of workers, customers and others.
Our mould experts can provide advice and support to develop the most appropriate strategies for the identification, investigation and remediation of mould problems in offices and other workplaces.
With offices in London serving the South and South East England, Manchester (North West), Birmingham (Midlands), Bristol (South East England and Wales), Leeds (North and North East) and Glasgow (Scotland), supported by regional teams of specially trained technicians, in-field specialists and consultants we can offer professional, cost effective environmental solutions throughout the UK and internationally.
Contact us today to learn how our mould testing and remediation solutions can help keep people safe from exposure to mould, spores and other indoor air pollutants.