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OSHA warns about Sandy cleanup workers and mold exposure

Just as the first responders did when SuperStorm Sandy hit, post-storm cleanup workers are facing dangerous hazards as they attempt to serve their communities. In addition to navigating unstable structures, interacting with dangerous equipment and so on, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has recently warned that Sandy cleanup workers may be in danger of developing serious illness due to a certain kind of toxic exposure.

As large portions of the Northeast dry out after being battered by water and submerged for some time, mold is growing steadily in buildings that have been condemned and also in many that remain occupied. In order for cleanup workers to avoid becoming ill from breathing in toxic mold spores, OSHA's New York regional administrator has warned that workers must remain educated about "the hazards of mold, developing an effective mediation plan, the use of effective controls, work practices and personal protective equipment, and training employees to recognize and protect themselves against mold."

By remaining vigilant about taking mold-related safety precautions and having a strong sense of what consequences may occur in the absence of such vigilance, workers can help themselves remain safe and healthy on the job.

OSHA is releasing a mold safety fact sheet on its website in order to help workers remain educated about this critical safety hazard. However, an OSHA spokesperson recently reinforced that the fact sheet and employee education efforts do not replace employer obligations to protect workers and provide them with protective equipment designed to limit mold exposure.

Source: United States Department of Labor, "US Labor Department's OSHA issues new fact sheet on mold hazards and safeguards for workers during Sandy cleanup," Dec. 5, 2012

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