At first glance, mold may seem unassuming but for commercial property owners, mold can be a highly problematic hazard that presents significant environmental risk.
Although frequently associated with the aftermath of natural disasters, mold is much more likely to result from routine maintenance issues such as leaky pipes or HVAC malfunctions. Taking a proactive approach to address mold is critical to help reduce the risk of property damage, guard against personal health effects, and avoid potentially costly future claims.
Concern about indoor exposure to mold has been increasing as the general public becomes aware of health risks and symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, potential adverse health risks can include a stuffy nose, sore throat, coughing or wheezing, burning eyes, or skin rash–with increased concerns for those with asthma or immuno-compromised individuals. Given these potential issues, commercial owners should prioritize mold as part of risk-management planning.
While any business can be at risk for mold, certain sectors have experienced a significant uptick in the frequency and severity of costly environmental claims due to mold and indoor air quality issues. Here’s a look at the factors driving this trend in these sectors.
Elementary and high schools (K-12) are vulnerable to mold growth for several reasons, including:
Without regular maintenance, a school can rapidly experience significant mold growth. To mitigate the risk of mold outbreaks, schools should perform regularly scheduled inspections for signs of mold, moisture, and leaks, including during long breaks. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Mold in Schools fact sheet provides additional guidance on how schools can mitigate this risk.
Deferred maintenance can lead to delayed problems for healthcare and hospitality sectors, especially when it comes to larger projects such as roof or room renovations:
Not having a plan to address this risk can be very costly. In addition to the costs to address structural damage, hospitals and hotels may also experience lost revenue if facilities need to cease operations or are held liable for mold-related exposures of individuals.
Unlike other environmental risks such as lead and asbestos, there are no federal laws or regulations for meeting required safety health levels with mold. By being proactive, a business could avoid costly and disruptive professional mold removal and remediation efforts. There are actions a risk manager can take to help protect operations:
Brokers and insurance carriers with expertise in managing environmental risks can be important allies in the fight against mold—National E&S Insurance Brokers offers specialized environmental coverage and risk-management expertise that can help businesses mitigate environmental risk.