How To Stop Mold in the Workplace (Before It Starts)
Have you ever heard horror stories, or even worked in an office, factory, or hospital that had to shut down due to mold? Then you know all about the time and energy it takes to shut down operations, evacuate the staff and spend weeks getting rid of toxic mold.
How does mold even get into a building that’s regularly cleaned? How can you know for sure that you as an employee or business owner are safe? Here’s how you can protect your business from mold now and into the future to prevent a workplace disaster.
How Does Mold Start to Invade Your Workspaces?
Mold is a fungus that can be found just about everywhere on the planet. It comes in a wide variety of forms, with some types being black or purple in color - or even orange.
When mold settles in and begins to multiply, some of its spores become airborne. In small quantities, they are not harmful, but when they find a space that supports good growth, the spore attaches to a surface and starts to propagate. As the colony expands, spores at the edges break off and return to the air.
The fungus enters your body through your lungs. A serious mold invasion will affect air quality and could eventually cause your employees or clients to become ill.
The High Cost of Mold Remediation vs. Prevention
Businesses often try to save money by cutting or reducing mold prevention programs. If this is the case with your company, it may be wise to look at how much it costs to hire a mold remediation company to clean out an infected building as compared to prevention costs.
If mold gets into the building’s walls, floors and ceiling materials, you could be looking at a bill of $10,000 or higher. Not only will you pay for the initial removal of the mold, you must also consider the added expense of replacing carpets, walls and sometimes furnishings. If you own a food processing facility, a mold invasion could have an even higher impact on your operation.
To keep costs lower and prevent having to pay out large sums at once, you need a good mold prevention program. Prevention begins with the construction of your factory, office, or another type of commercial space. A smart design will lower your ongoing costs.
Designing Your Building to Prevent Mold Invasion
Most molds thrive in dark and wet environments. Whether you are looking at breaking ground on a new building or repurposing an old commercial space, keep these design tips in mind to avoid building a breeding place for disease-causing molds.
Plan for the Worst in Flood-Prone Zones
If you are still searching for a location or in the planning phases for your new structure, opt for a spot as far above the floodplain as possible.
While plotting out the use for each space in the building, think about what is being stored and how sensitive it may be to a mold invasion. If your building is situated in a floodplain and the river overflows on an annual basis, make sure that fixtures or products are not stored in a place where they risk loss or damage.
You can also add French drains around the foundation. The use of impermeable barriers can deflect floodwaters, reducing the chance that mold will follow the spring runoff.
Sunshine and Fresh Air are the Enemies of Mold
The ultraviolet light produced by the sun will kill mold. The mold spores attach to surfaces using tiny legs. The sunshine makes the legs brittle and prevents the spores from multiplying. Also, good air circulation can stop mold from settling and attaching to surfaces. The light breeze created by your heating or air conditioning system can tug at the microscopic particles, sending them airborne again before they can attach to any surface. Constant air circulation also serves as a dehumidifier.
For these reasons, installing large windows in buildings is a natural source for mold prevention. Speak to your HVAC engineers to ensure that your circulating fans produce enough throughput to discourage mold growth.
Using Materials that Resist Mold Growth
Mold loves to live in dark, confined areas. This also applies to extremely tiny places. Mold spores more easily adhere to rough materials like fabrics and rough plasters. If a building material is full of texture and cracks, the spores have an easier time attaching to the surface. This is one of the reasons that glazed tiles are so popular in bathrooms and kitchens. Any mold spores that drop onto the floor or walls are simply wiped up during routine cleaning.
Avoid using carpeting in basements or underground units that have concrete floors and high humidity levels. Area rugs can be removed for cleaning and returned once they are dry. Avoid steam cleaning rugs or carpets where they lie, because if mold gets into the wall-to-wall, your steam cleaner will simply accelerate the growth. At that point, the only way to kill the mold entirely would be to replace the carpet or rugs.
New manufacturing processes also incorporate mold-resistant compounds into consumer products which you can use in place of carpeting or rugs. Plastic and rubber mats can be treated with Microban and will resist mold growth for up to six months. Once the Microban degrades, it can be reapplied.
High Humidity can Contribute to Mold Growth
Should your property be located in the Southeast or near the coast such as a city like Miami, Florida, you may be faced with high humidity levels at all times of the year. Installing a dehumidifier as part of your air conditioning system will go a long way in stopping the invasion of mold. Maintaining relative humidity of 30 to 50% will prevent moisture from collecting on tiles, in cracks, and even on floors.
Cleaning Routines that Stop Mold Before it Starts
Prevention does not end once your building has incorporated proper anti-mold measures. Even with dehumidifiers and rubber mats, mold can still hide in the cracks and crevices.
Killing mold once it gets its teeth into a structure is difficult, time-consuming, and expensive. Your cleaning staff is better served by adding preventative mold procedures to their routines. Use the following tips to help develop that routine.
- Adding exhaust fans to your cleaning equipment speeds up the drying process after using lots of water or liquid cleaners. The less time that water stands on the floor in puddles, the less time mold has the chance to establish a new colony.
- Wiping down surfaces will pick up more spores compared to the act of dusting or vacuuming.
- Cleaning products that use bleach or baking soda both are inexpensive and effective ways to stop the growth before it begins.
- Reusable mop heads are an ecologically friendly cleaning tool, but they can also become traps for mold. They need to be washed, sanitized, and dried between uses to prevent the buildup of mold between the strings of the mop.
- Wipe up condensation around poorly insulated windows and doors to stop the start of mold on the frame or wallboard.
- A UV light can kill mold in an unoccupied room, but it cannot be used in a space where there are plants or animals.
- Sanitize the drains and gutters with an annual treatment to minimize the amount of mold living near your building.
Cleaning staff should also be trained to check for mold in both communal and less-trafficked areas. For example, your mechanical spaces are one of the least checked areas with the poorest ventilation that can host a colony of mold spores. Make sure to add a mop-down of all your basement spaces on a weekly or monthly basis. Storage closets should be inspected and cleaned annually to identify new sources of mold. The HVAC ducting and air conditioning units should be sanitized every six months. Wet rooms with swimming pools, showers, or hot tubs require daily sanitizing.
Listen to Employees that Complain of Mold in Their Work Areas
As a property manager, the sound of an employee complaining about a smell or odd floor stain may seem like more work for you, but it could be a major tip-off to a dangerous situation.
People that work in an area every day are more likely to notice when a new odor pops up or if something is not cleaned as expected. The squeaky wheel may be your first indication that mold is appearing on the property. Addressing a small section of moldy walls or carpeting is much more manageable and affordable than if you ignore the problem.
Take Action Immediately After a Flood
Finally, even if you are taking proper precautions to prevent mold, if the space does get flooded, make sure to call in the pros as soon as possible after the water recedes. All damp walls, flooring, and equipment must be removed or properly cleaned to halt the mold invasion. In any case, the space should not be considered safe for work until the abatement team is done.
If you have spotted black mold in and around your business, you need to have it professionally removed before you can implement a prevention program. Click here or call ServiceMaster DSI today for a prompt assessment, quick quote, and fast remediation.