A few years ago I was hired to inspect a Terre Haute, Indiana workplace where a mold remediation company's employee got sick on-the-job, requiring medical treatment. The situation is complex, but I want to try and summarize what happened for you; because, if companies won't provide for their own safety and health - how will you trust them with yours, or your family's, or your employees
The company I'm referring to will remain anonymous. Just know that this company performs fire, smoke and water damage restoration and mold remediation, as advertised. They were originally hired to respond to a water-damage: A water supply line had ruptured, spilling water across the master bed/bath area and downward into the finished basement. The date-of-loss was unknown, as the building owners had been on vacation.
The structural drying technician went to the home and reported that they suspected mold growth in the impacted rooms. So, the company did not perform any drying; instead, they had (two days later) their mold remediation project manager come out to the property to write an estimate for mold remediation. The entire process (from structural drying tech to estimate completion) took a week. At that time, the building owners noticed strong odors throughout the home, and sought residency somewhere else until the remediation was completed.
This company went to work right away; but in the process of handling the building, an employee got sick. This employee was sent to a medical facility for treatment, which led to a two week lay-off. (While the employee was being medically reviewed, this company continued to have other employees handle the workplace as originally estimated.)
Despite having one Applied Microbial Remediation Technician (AMRT) on staff (the estimator), this company ended up (1) having a sick employee, (2) having to file a workman's comp claim, (3) was investigated by OSHA, themselves, (4) the workplace was, also, investigated by me, (5) was sued by the building owners (that's a story for another insert, perhaps), and (6) lost a ton of money and some competitive advantages in the marketplace.
This makes my case for the following:
We should have a restoration-specific certification for safety and health.
The industry has made excuse after excuse for ignoring safety and health, trying to hide behind various other certificates of training (from the IICRC, for example) and certifications (from the ACAC, for example) or blaming the Certified Safety Professional (CSP) designation for not developing safety and health programs and certifications for these industry professionals. In the meantime, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) demands that there be a "competent person" assigned and on-site every worksite to assure the safety and health of every employee. (And, that's not to mention any other environmental obligations the company may have under various other laws, like EPA and DOT.) So, how do these companies propose to protect workers and clients? Some (here in Terre Haute and other parts of the country) tell me that there are no specific standards of care addressing their industry, so they don't have to worry about it.
Allow me to clarify something for you: There are OSHA expectations for your industry!
Just because you're unaware of them doesn't mean you don't have to comply, either!
While many of you consumers may not be aware, nearly all water-damage companies and mold remediation companies are aware that there are industry-based standards of care for their work, developed by the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification (IICRC) and others, like the American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE). In these standards the Occupational Safety and Health Act's (The Act's) General Duty Clause is often cited. (The General Duty Clause can be read here: https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=OSHACT&p_id=3359
.) So, let's look at how OSHA looks at applying this General Duty Clause to your industry and its investigations of your industry:
1.) Are there specific OSHA standards for what they're investigating? Believe it or not, there are some specific standards for what you do. If there are not, however, they will apply the General Duty Clause to the situations they uncover during their investigation of your business and the worksite.
2.) Did the employer failed to keep the workplace free of a hazard to which employees of that employer were exposed?
3.) Was the hazard recognized or should have been recognized? Herein, the employer does not have to know the hazard exists. It's obviously worse if the employer knows, but it's not necessary for the employer to be responsible. Recognition for the hazard could come from a third-party audit, peers' recognition, or even common sense.
4.) Will a hazard cause or is it likely to cause death or serious injury or an illness?
5.) Was there a method to correct the hazard?
Because this is getting long, I'll leave it here, for now. Later, perhaps, I can answer your questions, and we can talk about who constitutes OSHA's "competent person" and/or get into a couple of examples of cite investigations by OSHA of these industry professionals. Until then, . . . .