Mould is a type of fungi that lives on plant and animal matter. It grows best in damp and poorly ventilated conditions, and reproduces by making spores which can be a health hazard for humans. Airborne mould spores are commonly found in both indoor and outdoor environments. When they land on damp spots they can begin to grow and spread. There is no practical way to eliminate all mould indoors; the way to control indoor mould growth is to control the source of moisture.
Sources of moisture can include:
- ground moisture rising up a brick or stone wall (rising damp);
- poor sub floor ventilation or moisture;
- blocked air vents at the base of the building;
- rain seeping through the roof;
- poor ventilation in bathroom/shower rooms which does not allow steam to disperse.
Mould is not always easy to recognise. It often looks like ‘fuzz’ or appears to be a stain, smudge or discoloration. The most common moulds are black, green or white. However, mould can be many other colours ranging from grey to orange to brown.
Relevant sections of the OHSMS
Where/when would these issues be relevant?
Mould associated with damp buildings and is commonly found:
Mould can trigger nasal congestion, sneezing, cough, wheeze, respiratory infections and worsen asthma and allergic conditions. People with weakened immune systems; allergies; severe asthma; chronic, obstructive, or allergic lung diseases are more susceptible to these symptoms and other serious health effects. People that are more susceptible should seek medical advice if they are concerned about mould.
What do you need to do?
The cheapest and easiest way of reducing moisture and humidity levels is by ventilating a room by opening a door or window. Use exhaust fans where available.
If mould is a problem in your workplace, you need to eliminate sources of moisture and clean up the mould by:
Washing mould off hard surfaces and allowing to dry completely by opening windows and doors or by using portable heaters to minimise re-growth. Absorbent materials, such as carpet may need to be replaced if they are contaminated with mould.
Fixing leaky plumbing and other building faults.
Using exhaust fans or open windows in the bathroom and kitchen areas when showering, cooking or using a dishwasher.
Avoiding conditions that encourage mould growth by using heat insulation and ventilation.
Cleaning small areas of mould using a damp wipe with detergent solution, vinegar solution or alcohol solution (one part vinegar or alcohol to three parts water). Commercially available mould treatments can bleach the mould white, but may not remove the mould. Do not try to brush the mouldy area as the brush can flick mould spores into the air, which may cause health problems.
Wear safety glasses and long rubber gloves and take care not to splash the cleaning solution. Ensure the area is well ventilated. If you are sensitive to mould you should consider wearing a ‘P1’ or ‘P2’ respirator during clean up. They are available at most hardware stores.
Legislation, guidance and Code of Practice
Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004
Occupational Health and Safety Regulations 2017
OHS Advisory Service on ph. 1300 074 715 or email: email@example.com