Author Topic: The Real Hazards & Risks Associated with Water-damaged Buildings:  (Read 70 times)


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      Someone wrote to me a question concerning another article I wrote, called Why It's Important to Respond to Water-damage Promptly & Professionally.  (If you've not already read this article, I encourage you to do so by going here:'s-important-to-respond-to-a-water-damage-promptly-professionally.)  Instead of responding in that article, I thought the subject of his question required its own article, or attention. . . .

      Jason, I read your original post. And, I have to ask: Are these things really hazardous, the gases and bacteria and pests? I live in Indiana, and we're around this stuff all the time.

      They can be.  Yes.  There are many variables that go into determining real risk, and that's why a proper risk assessor should be involved on these claims where an industrial hygienist hasn't defined workplace hazards (and risks) already.  (This is an OSHA mandated standard for workplaces.)  Here are just a couple of examples:

      1.) Chemically sensitized occupants.  There are many types of biological dispositions that make one sensitive to chemicals.  How often on claims do you know when such an occupant is present?  The reality is, there are persons who don't know they are sensitized, or may not be sensitized until after a given exposure (to an environmental condition), to let you know. . . .  When any adjustment to the indoor environmental quality takes place (related to chemicals), these persons will be the first to respond (negatively). 
      2.)  Type and concentration of the agents in question, as well as location and potential exposure routes.  These, together, can determine initial-risks; however, during the work of water-damage restoration things change dramatically.  (The science of drying building materials is, itself, an aggravate of environments, capable of manipulating a source of contamination from one location to another.)  Besides the biological dispositions of occupants, these factors go into determining real hazard and risks associated with the building.

      Of course these are just a couple of examples.  As I posted in my original article (linked above), there are other types of hazards (besides chemicals) in these types of environments.  The dynamics of risk assessment go beyond asking questions like:

      -  Where did the water come from?
      -  How long has it been here?
      -  What kinds of building materials were infected?
      -  Were there pre-existing (building) conditions related to mold or water incursions?

      Sure.  These are important questions to ask (especially if you're trying to define insurance coverage), but they don't define hazards and risks associated with the workplace.  And, if those things aren't defined the generalizations practiced (by anyone working on these claims) may lead to unwanted building and/or biological conditions/responses (not to mention increase the cost of doing business, loss of competitive advantage (e.g., loss of consumer trust), compliance and ethics violation fines, etc.). 

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