My workplace has black mould in parts of the roof, with water leaking through to inside the office when it rains. This is due to poor maintenance of the property we are in. Should I be concerned about this?
In general, limited exposure to most types of moulds does not typically cause symptoms in healthy individuals. However, certain moulds can pose hazards to individuals with allergies, preexisting health conditions, or prolonged exposure. Furthermore, some clinical studies have suggested a link between mould allergies and severe asthma.
People who have asthma, bronchitis, hay fever, other allergies, uncontrolled diabetes or have weakened immune systems, are more likely to react to mould.
Many of these moulds produce 'mycotoxins,' which are by-products toxic to humans. These toxins can gradually weaken the immune system and contribute to allergic reactions or respiratory issues. Some mycotoxins are also known carcinogens.
Commonly reported symptoms include a runny nose, eye irritation, skin rash, cough, congestion, and exacerbation of asthma. People with serious allergies to moulds may have stronger reactions that include fever and shortness of breath. People with chronic illnesses, such as obstructive lung disease, may develop mould infections in their lungs.
In recent years, Eastern Australia has experienced repeated floods, exacerbating the issues related to mould.
We think you’ll find our Mould webpage helpful.
Regarding concerns about the 'poor maintenance of our property,' Section 21(2)(c) of our OHS Act outlines employers' responsibility to maintain, so far as is reasonably practicable, each workplace under the employer's management and control in a condition that is safe and without risks to health.
In addition, under section 21(1) of our OHS Act, your employer has the duty to provide a safe workplace, and section 22 requires they monitor the health of employees and conditions at the workplace.
Based on what you’re describing, your employer may be in breach of these duties.
Do you have a worker-elected HSR at your workplace? If so, we strongly recommend asking your HSR take your workgroup’s mould concerns to your employer. Your employer must then take action.
See Safety Issue Resolution for more information.
We’d also strongly encourage you to contact your Union as a matter of urgency for advice and support. Your Union will employ officials with significant experience who can provide additional support and guidance, should you require it.