Damp is a common issue in properties up and down the UK, but it’s not just endemic to residential properties. Damp and mould can fester in commercial properties and places of work in the same way they can occur in homes, and largely for the same reasons.
The difference between damp in the workplace versus at home is that employers have a duty of care to protect their employees from potential adverse health conditions, meaning dampness needs to be tackled when it arises and prevented at all costs.
Employers in the UK are bound by the Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations 1992, and a core part of this states that all workplaces should have “a sufficient quantity of fresh or purified air”. Some types of damp and mould are caused by poor ventilation, meaning dampness stemming from this puts employers in a breach of their legal duties.
As per the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002, mould is classified as a hazardous substance. This means employers have a duty to carry out a legal risk assessment to identify any potential risks to health, including mould, and detailed measures to be taken to control the risk. Employees must also be made aware of the risks and given instructions on any precautions they need to take to mitigate any adverse effects.
This piece of legislation also states that should your risk assessment identify a substantial risk caused by a hazardous substance (such as mould), you must take action to reduce the risk as much as you possibly and practically can.
The reason for the legislation surrounding damp in the workplace in the UK is because mould spores and dampness can cause a number of adverse health effects, particularly in people who suffer from underlying health conditions such as asthma and other respiratory issues.
Breathing in mould spores can instigate allergic reactions and irritate people in a number of different ways through the onset of various side effects, including but not limited to:
As mentioned, employers have a duty of care to safeguard their employees against potential hazards, illnesses, or injuries incurred at work, and that includes taking necessary measures to minimise the risks of such. One way to do this is to tackle damp and mould and do everything possible to curtail its prevalence.
There are a number of ways damp can be identified in a commercial property, many of which mirror how you would identify damp in a residential property. Things to look out for include:
If any of the above are noticeable in addition to the symptoms of damp listed previously, there’s a high chance there’s damp in the workplace.
There are several ways damp can be prevented or at least minimised in commercial premises, with the first way being to fulfil the legal requirement of adequate ventilation and airflow. This entails ensuring windows and doors can be freely opened, or in the absence of natural ventilation, the installation of a powered fan to supply and remove air.
Keeping windows and doors open or supplying clean air through a fan will go a long way to removing excess humidity, which can reduce the likelihood of condensation-related damp, but this isn’t the only type of dampness that can be found in the workplace.
If your property has an underground level, you need to be aware of basement tanking. This relates to damp proofing sub-ground rooms by either preventing damp from penetrating the interior walls or pumping water away from the property altogether. Basement tanking prevents penetrating damp and flooding alike and is therefore highly recommended in all types of properties that sit below ground, including workplaces.
Another way to prevent damp is to ensure the DPC (damp proof course) installed in your workplace is up to date and in working order. DPCs tend to need to be replaced every 30 years or so. If you don’t have a record of this but are conscious of preventing rising damp, look into when the DPC was last replaced.
The final way to prevent damp in the workplace is to ensure you’re routinely carrying out proper maintenance like you would at home. This means addressing any leaks or faulty plumbing, ensuring the roof is in pristine condition and free from loose or broken tiles, and regularly unblocking the gutters. In older premises, consider replacing windows and doors if the seals are old or likely to come loose and let moisture in.
There are some industries and types of workplaces that might be more susceptible to damp and therefore it might not be possible to remove it 100%, but taking the above steps could mitigate the effects which are required by law by all employers.
If you think your workplace or commercial premises might be suffering from damp and you want to diagnose the problem and learn more about the most effective treatment options, including basement tanking, arrange a site survey today.
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