Managing Mould in the Workplace:
The Overlooked Risk of Workers' Safety
Mould is often overlooked as a serious health hazard in the workplace.
Mould can grow out of sight, making it hard to realise you have a problem. Sometimes it’s only when employees report ill health and investigations occur and mould is discovered.
In this short article, we’ll discuss the dangers of mould and why employers should take it seriously. We’ll also provide tips on how to prevent mould from becoming a problem in the workplace.
What Is Mould?
Mould is a fungus that has an important job in breaking down dead organisms. It can grow indoors or outdoors and thrives in damp, warm environments. Mould spores are microscopic and can often only be seen if a colony has formed. To reproduce, moulds release spores into the air, which travel to other areas creating new colonies.
When airborne, these spores can be inhaled by employees, causing various health problems, including:
Some moulds produce toxins (mycotoxins) that can cause more severe illness. Mould exposure can be hazardous for people with weakened immune systems or chronic lung diseases.
As well as health issues, mould can cause structural damage to buildings and assets as they feed on organic matter such as wood. Therefore, unidentified structural damage can represent a serious safety risk for workers.
Mould is found in various places areas such as walls, ceilings, floors, and storage areas. It can be hidden under carpets, floor tiles, roof cavities, expansion joints, or behind wall cabinets.
Mould growth is often the result of water leaks or spills but can also be found in HVAC systems, equipment, and other places where there is high humidity, condensation, or poor ventilation such as confined spaces.
Your duty as a PCBU
Employers (PCBU) are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. As such, employers must take reasonable steps to prevent mould from forming and recurring.
(Please the safe work Australia website for a list of the various Australian state and territory laws.)
There are a few simple steps employers can take to prevent mould growth in the workplace:
If you suspect that there is mould growth in your workplace, it’s important to have the area inspected by a qualified professional such as an Occupational Hygienist. Often, only a thorough Mould Assessment can confirm the presence of spores in the air.
If mould is present in your workplace, you should arrange to have it removed as soon as possible to reduce the risk of exposure for your workers. By taking steps to prevent mould growth and quickly addressing outbreaks, employers can create a safer environment for their employees.
Mould can be removed by cleaning surfaces with a mould-killing solution and removing mouldy materials. It’s essential to use proper safety equipment when removing mould, as mould spores can cause health problems if inhaled.
Once the mould is removed, it’s important to prevent it from returning. This can be done by:
By taking these steps, you can help to keep your workplace mould-free.
Removing large mould outbreaks
It’s possible to clean small and medium mould outbreaks yourself. Areas with more extensive mould contamination due to prolonged exposure or flood damage may require an Occupational Hygienist to conduct a mould assessment and recommend the required remediation steps.
If you have any concernes about Mould at the workplace, please contact us.
HSE Australia conducts comprehensive workplace mould assessments through air sampling and surface swab analysis.
Contact us today to arrange an assessment of your workplace.