Personal Protection Equipment
Personal protection equipment (PPE) is extremely important when tackling a mold removal project. There are many hazards that can pose a health risk to the mold remediators including debris, insects and animals, asbestos, lead, sharp objects, biocides, and mold spores. The function of PPE is to protect individuals from exposing themselves to these and other issues.
Mold removal professionals know the risks and they will come into a job completely covered when they begin working. The main types of PPE needed protect the hands, skin, feet, head, eyes, and air passageways. For more information on health issues caused by mold exposure and why PPE is so important, go to our Mold Symptoms page.
Mold remediators are frequently coming into contact with contaminated materials with their hands. Since skin contact is one way for mold to get into a person’s system and begin hurting their health, protecting hands with gloves is very important. There are various glove types that serve specific purposes throughout the mold removal process.
When inspecting and testing mold, latex gloves are recommended. If there is an electrical hazard, use rubber gloves for protection. When bagging materials, use thick work gloves that extend past the forearm. When working with cleaning products stronger than soap to remove mold, gloves should be made from rubber, neoprene, nitrile, polyurethane, or polyvinylchloride.
Full coverage of the body is recommended when a remediator is dealing with medium to large infestations or getting on their hands and knees in an area exposing themselves to other elements. The ankles and wrists should be sealed with duct tape so that spores do not slip through the spaces in there and cause a reaction. You also should cover your head and feet with coverings that mold cannot get through. There are also full body suits that have built in head and foot coverage. For lighter jobs, disposable paper coveralls will do the job.
Make sure not to wear the protective gear outside of the contaminated area as you do not want to drag the mold into other rooms. If it is a large job, there may have been an airlock set up during the containment process. This is also known as a decontamination chamber. It is the space between the mold infested area and the clean area where people can safely go in and out. In this area, there are multiple layers of the long plastic sheets used for containment with slits so people can pass through. This is where mold removal professionals should take off their contaminated protective gear and safely seal them in plastic bags if they wish to move them through the clean area.
Thick rubber boots are recommended as they provide the best protection for the types of hazards encountered during mold removal projects. As mentioned above, disposable foot coverings should always be worn over them to avoid spreading mold spores into other areas of the home.
There are a variety of head protectors that may be needed during a mold removal job including hard hats, bump caps, and face-shield headgear. Hard hats are needed when doing demolition or disturbing heavy materials. There are two categories for hard hat protection: Type I and Type II. Type I hard hats help protect from impacts directly to the top of the head, whereas Type II hard hats reduce the force of hits that are not centered or come from the side of the head.
Bump caps are thinner than hard hats and provide a baseline of protection. They are used when hard hats are not required but protection is still needed. Headgear with a face shield is a great option because it provides a pull down screen that acts as an extra layer of protection for your face.
Head protection is given different classifications that help you determine what scenarios you may need each in. Helmets that are Class A are for general use. Class C (Conductive), Class E (Electrical), Class G (General) hard hats are all for electrical use. You can find information on the classification and ANSI standard on a label inside of the helmet.
A common way that mold spores enter the body is through the eyes, which is why you must protect them when disturbing mold. Protective goggles or glasses (without vent holes) are the bare minimum required during mold remediation. Full-face respirators will also do the job while protecting your air passageways as well.
Respirators are a very important part of PPE, because mold exposure through inhalation can cause a variety of allergic reactions and health problems. If mold spores are going to be disturbed and kicked up into the air, then respirators are essential. If there are any toxic gases, chemicals, or fumes in the area of remediation, lungs can be permanently damaged without the use of a respirator.
There are several types of respirators to choose from and the selection will depend on the type of job being handled. An N-95 respirator is basic level and is the minimum PPE required for small jobs. It goes on easily covering the nose and mouth and it is designed to filter out 95% of the particles in the air around you. It is available at most hardware stores.
Air-purifying respirators (APRs) come in half or full-face coverage. The half-face coverage option lacks eye protection. These come with P100 filter cartridges and exchange valves that filter out mold spores before the air enters the respirator for the user to breathe.
The respirator with the most extensive protection is the powered air-purifying respirator (PAPR). The PAPR covers the entire face and utilizes a blower to pass air through a filter, which removes contaminants from the air before it reaches the face compartment.
Any respirator worn should be approved by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that respirators should match the hazards workers are likely to be exposed to, workers should be trained on how to use them, and the respirators need to be regularly cleaned and tested.