What Can I Do If I Find Mould In The Workplace?
The Law Of… Ridding The Workplace Of Mould
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), in Europe it is estimated that 10-50% of indoor spaces (depending on country) where people spend prolonged periods of time that are damp. Excessive dampness can lead to mould and mould can be a huge threat to health.
Industrial Disease specialist, Phillip Gower, provides his insight on mould and what to do if you find it within your workspace.
How Does Damp And Mould Occur?
Mould and damp are caused by excess moisture. Condensation occurs when water in the air hits a cold surface and condences. The appearance of condensation or mould is an indicator that a property is not adequately heated or ventilated. It is important to assess where the mould and damp is coming from and why, so that you can make an informed decision about what to do next. It could be as simple as condensation from everyday use, but it may also be a little more complicated than that.
The most common cause of mould and damp is because of leaking pipes or damaged roofs or windows. Any kind of damage to the parts of your work building that aim to keep rain out will almost certainly be causing mould and damp.
If you have moved into an office or workspace that was recently built, it is possible the building itself is still drying out and this can also be a cause.
Another source of mould and damp is from what is called 'rising damp'. This is when water from the ground seeps up through the bricks and mortar of a building in a similar way to how a sponge soaks up surrounding water.
Inadequate Heating or Ventilation
Because mould and damp is often caused by too much condensation, if your work space is not sufficiently ventilated, the condensation can build up and eventually cause mould. The same goes for heating. Condensation is less likely to occur when a property is warmer and insulated properly, particularly on external walls as they will be a lot colder than internal walls.
How Does Mould And Damp Affect Health?
If a place of work is damp for a prolonged period of time, mould can begin to grow on walls.
Moulds produce substances that can cause allergic reactions (these are also known as allergens). They contain irritants and sometimes, toxic substances. If these spores of mould are touched or disturbed and in turn, inhaled, it can lead to an allergic reaction.
If you have mould in your workplace, you may experience:
- A runny nose
- Red eyes
- Skin rashes
- Asthma attacks
Mould and damp can also exacerbate existing conditions such as:
- Any other respiratory conditions
What Can I Do About Mould In The Workplace?
Your employer has a legal responsibility to ensure the health and safety of their workers. They should be taking adequate measures to safeguard against the many damaging health effects of mould.
If you see any mould in the workplace or begin to experience some of the health problems mentioned, you should report the problem to your employer immediately.
Those in control of the premises should:
- Detect and locate the source of the moisture problem
- Remove any known mould infestations
- Control excessive moisture through effective ventilation
If you report mould in the workplace and nothing is done about it, you are within your rights to report your concerns to an enforcing authority. This could be the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), Local Authority or another enforcing authority. The HSE has published a guide on whether the HSE is the correct enforcing authority for your situation that provides distinct lists on who to call.
What Can Simpson Millar Do To Help?
If you are suffering from health problems that you believe come from a work environment that is excessively damp and your employee has done nothing to protect you from it, you could be entitled to compensation for damages. Our Industrial Disease team has many years of experience providing legal advice for employees who have suffered at the hands of negligent employers and might be able to advise you on the next steps to take.
"Mould and damp is something that must be taken seriously. It's very easy to let mould develop much further than it should. If it is dealt with quickly, it is unlikely to affect health."
"Employers can be reluctant to tackle damp and mould because once you have attempted to reduce condensation, it can be very difficult and costly to deal with. I have seen instances of employers simply painting over mould and that is not a solution."
"Be brave in situations where employers refuse to help. It is their responsibility to maintain your work space so that it is safe."
If you are unsure whether your employer should be doing more, contact Simpson Millar for expert legal advice on: 0808 129 3320