The very serious problem of mold contamination
It happens regularly – a building contractor or maintenance worker works on a structure’s plumbing, electrical system or something else that requires them to look behind a wall, and they find what looks like a small amount of mold.
Soon, they discover that mold is located throughout the building, which leads to an intense mitigation procedure that can last for days. In addition, the initial problem that spawned the mold growth – be it an undetected water leak or a roof issue – must be determined and repaired. Solving the problem can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.
From a risk management standpoint, the biggest issue we have seen over the past several years is anything related to mold. We have seen mold-related incidents in nearly every type of structure imaginable – from residential apartment buildings to offices, hospitality facilities and schools.
These structures must be closed for days at a time, if not longer, when mold is indeed found, due to the associated health hazards. Can you imagine having to shut down a middle school with a few hundred students for a week, without any advance warning? Or having to evacuate an apartment building with 500 tenants who are essentially being kicked out of their homes?
Claims related to mold exposure are incredibly costly and time-consuming.We recommend three steps for anyone who owns or operates a building that could face a mold issue or has already endured one.:
1. Contain: First, you have to see how pervasive the problem has become. Once you discover mold, you have to find the source (e.g., a long-running, undetected water leak) and stop it from causing further damage. You also need to determine how far the mold extends throughout the building because you absolutely must treat the entire mold-affected area(s). In addition, you must document all of the work you have done to contain the mold, which includes writing down the various steps as well as taking photos and videos. Not creating any relevant documentation has come back to haunt many people and businesses.
2. Remove: Removing mold requires extensive precautionary measures, including proper eyewear and breathing protection. Every appropriate step must be taken to prevent the mold from becoming airborne and creating an air-quality issue. People mitigating the site must take care when removing any exposed piece of drywall, even going so far as to dispose of it in a proper bag. Walls need to be bleached and scrubbed clean. The EPA has several guidelines in place for mold removal that must be adhered to. Mold removal and disposal is not something that can be taken lightly. But most practically, property owners and building managers should absolutely seek out a mold removal expert. This is not something to be taken lightly.
3. Remediate: Remediating the cause of the problem — be it a water leak, excessive humidity or something else — can only occur once everything has been cleaned. Building owners and managers must test for air quality and conduct a very careful visibility test. And again – seek a specialist first. Trying to handle this on your own can end up creating way more problems down the line.
In addition to these suggestions, another way to limit claim-related costs is to contact a knowledgeable insurance advisor and/or broker to discuss the various policies related to mold or other environmental hazards. There are several options available that can keep you and your business protected from the steep expenses and lawsuits that result from this all-too-common problem.