Protecting your employees from safety issues that could result in a workers’ compensation claim is important for your small- to medium-sized business. This can mean planning for potential hazards beyond normal workplace injuries such as the health effects of mold infestations.
Following a natural disaster, such as Hurricane Irma, businesses and homes flooded by the storms —or drenched by wind-blown water leaking through the roof or windows— are especially at risk for mold growth. In a video by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Dana Robison from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) underscores the risk of mold after water damage:
When hurricanes, tornadoes, and floods happen and your property is damaged by water, mold can begin to grow. When returning to a (location) that has been damaged by water, be aware that mold is a health risk. Walls and ceilings damaged by water may be discolored, which is a sign of mold growth. There may also be a mold odor, which can smell like a musty, earthy smell or even a strong foul smell.
The Occupational Health and Safety Administration considers mold a workplace hazard:
Molds produce and release millions of spores small enough to be air-, water-, or insect-borne. They can also produce toxic agents known as mycotoxins. Spores and mycotoxins can have negative effects on human health. For those people who are affected by mold exposures there can be a wide variation in how they react. People at greatest risk of health effects are individuals with allergies, asthma, sinusitis, or other respiratory conditions, as well as infants and children, elderly people, and pregnant women. In addition, individuals with a weakened immune system are at risk.
Mold can be one of the factors in Building related illness" (BRI), a diagnosable illness that can be directly attributed to airborne building contaminants. Flu-like symptoms can include muscle aches, fever, and coughing.
A professional employer organization (PEO) like Progressive Employer Management Company can bring extensive risk management experience to developing policies and contingency plans to protect your workers from the threat of mold. Establishing a general safety and health program can save your business anywhere from $4 to $6 for every $1 invested.
If your business needs planning safety programs to deal with a wide variety of potential issues or assistance with risk management or workers’ compensation management, contact the workers’ compensation professionals at PEMCO for assistance.