In light of recent flooding conditions in the Midwest, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE), in a recent release, offers tips to help businesses hit by flooding avoid problems with mold and moisture. The release stresses that individual situations vary, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution.

According to the ASSE release, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recommends that ‘surfaces wet longer than 48 hours with “clean water” should be considered as potentially contaminated, and any surfaces in contact with “dirty water” should be considered contaminated.’ ASSE members recommend that people consult state and local experts for more guidance regarding state and local laws and regulations addressing mold.

To reduce the chances of a mold colony growing in a store or business, the ASSE offers these recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
  1. Keep the humidity level below 50 percent;
  2. Use an air conditioner or dehumidifier during humid months (depending on the climate);
  3. Maintain adequate ventilation, including use of exhaust fans, in the kitchen and bathrooms;
  4. Add mold inhibitors to paints before applying them;
  5. Clean bathrooms with mold-killing products; and,
  6. Avoid the use of carpeting in bathrooms, basements or other areas where moisture or water could be a concern.
When cleaning up a building or facility affected by mold, ASSE says workers should:
  • Wear the proper PPE, including gloves, goggles, and a respirator appropriate for the job.
  • Avoid direct contact with affected mold areas as much as possible.
  • Throw away as many items as possible. Replacements may be less expensive in the long term (and short term) than attempting to decontaminate some surfaces.
  • Decontaminate and then dry as thoroughly as possible any items that cannot be disposed. Moisture removal is a key factor to prevent future growth.
  • Cut wallboard to the point of contamination and replace it with new sections.
  • Clean all tools after use, or dispose of them. Clean tools after each shift.
  • Obtain an evaluation by a licensed and qualified builder or structural engineer before entering a facility if there is any doubt about the structural integrity of the facility. Medical clearance may also be necessary based upon the severity of mold in the area.
  • Attempts to mix chemicals to clean surfaces can potentially cause further damage, such as the toxic gases that can be released when ammonia and bleach are mixed. Exercise caution so as not to create additional hazards.
  • Turn off the power supply (circuit breakers) in specific damaged areas or areas where there are high levels of moisture to avoid electrical shock hazards.