Work is an inevitable part of everyday life. Many of us spend up to forty hours a week at our jobs. With such a large portion of our lives spent dedicated to our jobs, it’s important to make sure that the place we spend so much of our time in is a safe, healthy environment.
Many companies have safety and health protocols already in place, from avoiding carpel tunnel syndrome in an office environment to proper sanitary practices in food service industries. However, there are still potential health hazards that can present themselves from time to time. For instance, there has been much growing concern in recent years regarding the issue of mold contamination in the work place, and its effects on workers who are exposed to it on a daily basis.
Mold is a non-animal, non-plant living organism that is in the same family as yeast and mushrooms. It feasts on organic compounds, such as wood and fabric. It thrives in moist environments, like bathrooms, kitchens, basements and crawlspaces. Mold starts out as spores, tiny particles that act as “seeds”. When conditions are appropriate, mold spores are able to latch on to a surface and begin reproducing at a very rapid rate, quickly creating vast colonies that completely penetrate whatever object they’ve settled upon. Given the right environment, mold can spread itself through a building in a matter of days.
Thankfully, out of the more than thousand strands of mold commonly found in homes and buildings, only a few handfuls are known to cause serious health problems in humans. Generally these problems are found among those with a weakened or compromised immune system, such as children, the elderly, or those who already have medical problems. Symptoms of toxic mold sickness can seem like a cold or flu, with symptoms like fatigue, headaches, sneezing and coughing. Some of the more serious reactions to toxic mold can even include respiratory infections, organ hemorrhaging, cancer, and in very rare circumstances, even death.
Often mold is discovered by visual confirmation or by scent. Mold can come in a variety of colors, such as black, green, red, blue, white, or brown. And if you smell a musty, earthy, or rotten scent, it’s likely you’re smelling mold. However, sometimes mold can also be present despite a lack of smell or visual aid. If you find that you or your coworkers are consistently suffering from any of the symptoms listed above, it’s possible that there may be a mold colony hidden in the walls or carpeting at your work. In this case, it would be a good idea for your employer to have a full inspection and indoor air quality test conducted by a professional environmental services company in order to determine if mold is the cause of the health problems.
Because mold can have such a drastic effect on people’s health, it’s important to make sure that the places we live and work are free of mold. It’s also important that if you suspect mold to be present in your work environment, that you take appropriate actions in order to ensure the safety of yourself and your fellow employees.
A good first step when you suspect that there may be mold growing in your workplace would be to communicate with your superior directly, so he or she can take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that the mold problem is thoroughly looked into and remediated if necessary. If your employer doesn’t take your mold remediation request seriously, or you feel that they are not making it a high enough of a priority, you can always escalate the issue by contacting the Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA), or your local county health department, since mold in the workplace could certainly count as a safety violation for the employer.
If you do decide to escalate the problem to such a point, keep in mind that this may put your position at your company in danger. For, while this will certainly be successful in forcing the issue, your employer does not need a reason to terminate your position with them. However, if you do end up being laid off, and you have reason to suspect that it is due to your blowing the whistle on the unsafe environment that you were forced to work in, you can certainly take legal action against your former employer.
In most cases, however, your employer will realize the importance of having the mold removed from the property, and will generally work with the building owner to make sure the mold is taken care of. However the situation is handled, the first step should be to contact a professional environmental services company who specializes in mold testing and remediation, such as Indoor-Restore Environmental Services, to get more information.