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10 Items You Need To Know About Water and Mold Damage In A Commercial Building

Posted by Shivi Kakar

Sep 1, 2009 2:37:34 AM

Mike Gfroehrer
1. The uncontrolled release of water may result in mold (fungi) growth in a previously non-water damaged area of a building if the water release is not adequately addressed within 48 hours of its occurrence. In addition to mold growth, water damaged can result in structural damage and support the proliferation of other types of biological organisms including dust mites, cockroaches, rodents, algae, and/or bacteria.

2. The uncontrolled release of water in a building with a history of water damage may cause dormant mold colonies from prior water releases to become active in less than 48 hours.

3. One of the most important factors in effectively preventing or controlling mold growth inside a commercial building is to have a written Water Response Plan in place before an uncontrolled release of water occurs.

4. An effective Water Response Plan will include provisions to immediately stop the uncontrolled release of water and prevent its’ reoccurrence.

5. An effective Water Response Plan will include provisions to immediately start removing the water by mechanical means such as extraction with wet vacuums and the use of commercial-grade drying equipment. Areas where drywall (sheetrock) are covered by large pieces of furniture, wallpaper, or cove base/moldings may require special attention that potentially includes removal of sections of the drywall. The source of the water (domestic drinking water vs. rain penetration through the building vs. widespread flooding vs. sewage backup) will also impact the required response activity. Visible inspection, moisture meters, infrared cameras, measurement of temperature and relative humidity are all tools that that may be used to identify where water damaged materials exist.

6. Depending on the capabilities of the commercial building’s maintenance staff, the Water Response Plan should anticipate the use of outside contractors such as licensed plumbers, roofing contractors, environmental consultants, water/fire damage restoration contractors, and/or qualified mold remediation contractors. It is advisable to have an established relationship with each type of contractor in order to best control costs once the Water Response Plan requires activation.

7. The most common health effect resulting from indoor mold exposure is an aggravation of allergies and/or asthmatic conditions. Prolonged exposure may cause hypersensitivity in some individuals, resulting in these individuals experiencing a severe respiratory reaction even when very low concentrations of airborne mold are present at work or at home. The variety of responses is often seen when employees working in the same area report a wide range of individual responses when near the water damaged building materials.

8. If an uncontrolled release of water is not properly responded to mold growth will likely result. Once mold growth is suspected or confirmed a qualified individual should conduct an investigation to determine the extent of the mold growth and develop a Mold Remediation Work Plan. The Mold Remediation Work Plan should identify procedures to follow when cleaning or removing mold damaged building materials so that building occupants are protected and not adversely affected by the remediation project.

9. The Mold Remediation Work Plan must include: which building materials require removal; which building materials require cleaning and disinfection; a plan for the isolation of the work area using barriers (polyethylene sheeting) and negative air machines to control airborne dust generation; documentation of worker training in proper mold remediation work procedures; and the criteria of the Post Remediation Assessment. Simply put, spraying with bleach or covering with an anti-microbial paint is not an appropriate response where mold growth is confirmed to be present on installed building materials.

10. A Post Remediation Assessment (PRA) determines if the Mold Remediation Work Plan was successful in returning the area to non-water damaged condition. The PRA must be conducted prior to the removal of isolation barriers and should include: a visual inspection to confirm water and mold damaged has been removed and the area has been appropriately cleaned; a moisture survey, using moisture meters, to document remaining installed building materials are satisfactorily dry; and confirmation that corrective actions are in place to prevent additional water damage. Depending on the extent of the mold damage air and surface samples may be collected as part of the PRA. Whenever air or surface samples are collected a qualified individual, such as a Certified Industrial Hygienist, should be chosen to determine the sample locations and assist with the interpretation of results.

Topics: health and safety, Construction H&S, worker safety, Occupational Health, Occupational Safety, Mold, Occupational Training, Working Green, Water Response Plan

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