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According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, more than 1,000 varieties of mold are found in the United States, and any of them can be lurking in your workplace. While some forms of mold are relatively harmless, others are potentially lethal if inhaled or ingested by a worker with an underlying health condition. As soon as you spot mold at work, it's essential that you report it before someone gets sick.
Mold is more than an eyesore -- it's a major hazard. It has the ability to grow on almost any surface, including wood, tile and drywall, as long as adequate moisture and oxygen are present. Over time, it can cause serious damage to structures. More importantly, it can cause serious health problems for people who come into contact with it. Some people are allergic to mold spores, and working in a moldy environment can cause a wide variety of respiratory problems. Employees with asthma can experience asthma attacks from breathing in the spores. Mold can also irritate a person's eyes, skin, throat and nose. Employees with diabetes, AIDS or impaired immunity can experience systemic infections after coming into contact with mold spores. Aspergillus mold is perhaps the most dangerous. According to the Mayo Clinic, aspergillus mold can cause the disease aspergillosis. Complications of aspergillosis include bleeding in the lungs, bone destruction, liver failure and brain damage, especially in workers with compromised immune systems.
Informing a Supervisor
As soon as you spot mold growing at work, inform your immediate supervisor. Tell her your concerns, and show her where the mold is located. Depending on your company's guidelines, you might also need to file an internal hazard report. Your supervisor should then take steps to form a remediation plan to get rid of the mold. According to OSHA, the remediation plan should combat the source of the mold, which is more than likely a water-related issue such as inadequate drainage or flooding. The plan should tackle how the mold will be cleaned up and removed from your workplace, and how it will be prevented in the future. If the mold issue is widespread, your company might need to hire a professional to clear out the mold from the building.
Reporting to OSHA
If your supervisor fails to act and the mold continues to grow in your workplace, file a complaint directly with OSHA. You can file a complaint by calling your local OSHA office or online through OSHA's website. Most state health departments and OSHA offices have their own plans in place for dealing with mold. Typically, an inspector will come look at the problem, and then decide how to proceed from there. Your employer will likely be forced to deal with the issue and get rid of the mold -- or face a fine.
Tips and Considerations
When you find the mold, don't touch it or lean in for a closer inspection, as you could expose yourself to the spores. You might need to be diligent in reminding your employer about the problem to get him to act. If he seems dismissive of the problem, remind him that OSHA requires employers to provide a safe work environment, and that he's breaking the law by allowing a known health hazard to continue growing in the workplace.
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration: A Brief Guide to Mold in the Workplace
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Preventing Mold-Related Problems in the Indoor Workplace
- United States Government: Reporting Mold Problems
- Take One Step: Workplace Hazards
- Mayo Clinic: Aspergillosis
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration: Mold