Protecting Maintenance Workers Who Handle Mold

Maintenance involves small areas of mold contamination (less than 30 square feet) and includes minor contamination cleanup in HVAC systems (systems less than 10 square feet). It is assumed that maintenance staff will come in contact with mold, and when they do, they will correct the source of moisture and clean up small amounts.

The National Institute of Environmental Health and Sciences (NIEHS), in conjunction with a number of other organizations, published Guidelines for the Protection and Training of Workers Engaged in Maintenance and Remediation Work Associated with Mold (NIEHS Guidelines). The Guidelines are experience-based recommendations for protecting and training mold hazard assessors, mold remediation workers, and workers exposed to mold during maintenance of building systems.

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Training Maintenance Workers

At the end of a training session, maintenance workers who handle mold should know:

  • How to identify the characteristics of mold
  • The requirements for mold growth
  • How to protect themselves from mold
  • When to bring mold problems to the attention of a supervisor
  • How to clean it up

According to the NIEHS Guidelines, maintenance training should be a maximum of 2 hours if it involves PPE, but shorter (between 30 minutes and 2 hours) if PPE is covered in other training. Training should be tailored to site-specific conditions and take into account applicable training required in standards such as OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard and Respiratory Protection Standard.

Maintenance Training Checklists

Knowledge Checklist

Topics the NIEHS Guidelines recommend for training maintenance workers who may handle mold include:

Introduction to Mold

  • Definition of mold
  • Building conditions that cause it to grow
  • Areas where mold is usually seen in the workplace
  • Activities that are OK for maintenance workers to perform
  • Activities maintenance workers should not perform

Health Effects of Mold Exposure

  • Current medical knowledge of mold-related diseases
  • The likelihood of experiencing job-related health problems from mold exposure
  • When a worker should seek medical attention and what the doctor should look for
  • The signs and symptoms of adverse effects potentially due to mold Legal Rights, Regulations, and Codes
  • The applicable federal, state, and local regulations and building codes related to mold that affect the worker’s job

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Response and Reporting

  • When and how to respond to a mold problem
  • When to refer it to management for follow-up
  • Considerations that should be part of deciding whether to respond directly on a mold project include:
    • Size and duration of the mold contamination
    • Equipment available on hand to respond
    • Patterns of worker illnesses or symptoms that may be mold related
    • Presence of extensive water damage or hidden mold
    • The source of the moisture problem

See tomorrow’s Advisor for more mold training checklists for maintenance workers and everything you need to know about PPE for these guys.