Protecting Construction Workers during Mold Remediation

moldMold is a sometimes invisible threat to construction workers but the exposure to mold spores can cause serious health problems—primarily respiratory. Any water damage, humidity or confined space is an at-risk situation for mold and an inhalation danger for construction workers. Remediation or removal of mold actually increases these hazards during the process.

OSHA has specific mold remediation guidelines for building materials that have mold growth. The guidelines are designed to protect the health of cleanup personnel and other workers during remediation. These guidelines are based on the size of the area impacted by mold contamination.

  • For areas smaller than 100 ft.2; use an approved respirator, at a minimum, either a half-face or full-face N, R, or P-95 respirator.
  • For areas greater than 100 ft.2, areas where mold is heavy (blanket coverage rather than patchy), or areas where substantial dust is generated during cleaning or debris removal (e.g., abrasives are used to clean surfaces); use an approved respirator, at a minimum, either a half-face or full-face N, R, or P-100 respirator.

Personal Protective Equipment

The primary function of personal protective equipment is to prevent the inhalation and ingestion of mold and mold spores and to avoid mold contact with the skin or eyes.

“Any remediation work that disturbs mold and causes mold spores to become airborne increases the degree of respiratory exposure. Actions that tend to disperse mold include: breaking apart moldy porous materials such as wallboard; destructive invasive procedures to examine or remediate mold growth in a wall cavity; removal of contaminated wallpaper by stripping or peeling; using fans to dry items or ventilate areas.”

For skin and eye protection, it is important to note that glove material should be selected based on the type of substance used in the mold cleanup: a chlorine bleach or strong cleaning solution requires gloves made from natural rubber, neoprene, nitrile, polyurethane, or PVC.

Safety glasses or goggles with open vent holes are not appropriate in mold remediation. Properly fitted goggles, designed to prevent the entry of dust and small particles or a full face piece respirator, are essential.

OSHA’s guidelines also include:

  • Protective clothing (e.g., disposable coveralls) to prevent contamination and skin contact with mold and chemicals. For areas greater than 100 ft.2, protective clothing should cover the entire body including head and feet.
  • Re-wetting materials with a mist of water to suppress spores, dust and debris.
  • Wrapping and sealing the items that will be discarded in plastic bags or sheets to reduce the spread of spores.
  • Providing natural or local exhaust ventilation during all cleaning steps.
  • After cleaning, an HEPA vacuum is recommended for cleaning up dust that may have settled on surfaces outside the work area.

For additional Information, visit OSHA’s Safety and Health Topics webpage on mold and contact our offices at Diversified Safety Services.

 

 

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