According to a report commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Insurance Information Institute counts more than 10,000 mold/IAQ-related lawsuits pending in the United States, a 300% increase since 1999.
Increasing Indoor Air Quality and mold lawsuits mean more prevention for restorers, contractors
If you’re like most contractors, you’ve seen the anecdotal information about the rise in mold and indoor air quality lawsuits in recent years. According to a report commissioned by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Insurance Information Institute counts more than 10,000 mold/IAQ-related lawsuits pending in the United States, a 300% increase since 1999.
Alan Wozniak, president and CEO of Pure Air Control Services based in Clearwater, FL, says this litigation could be creeping closer than you think. But knowing the exact conditions of a building or work space before restoration or remediation begins can help ward off liability.
“You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” says Wozniak. No matter what the contaminant, the protocol developed, or the process used, pre-work testing is key. “I don’t want to play Russian roulette with the customer. I want to know what my conditions are up front and what I’m trying to achieve. Without testing before I begin, how do I know I achieved the right results when it’s complete?”
Wozniak, whose 30-person company studies buildings forensically, conducts ventilation system cleaning, operates a full-service indoor air quality lab for testing, and develops and sells indoor air quality test kits, stresses that ignorance will not hold up as a legal argument. “’I don’t know’ does not cut it in court,” he says. “The next wave of lawsuits will be against restorers when six months or a year have passed and people are complaining again and there’s no evidence to say that the work was done properly.”
Although some states prohibit mold testing (pre- and post-) from being conducted by the restorer, it can effectively be done. “Medicine is a good analogy for the IAQ industry - you have specialists and general practitioners. I look at our work the same way. We have one set of specialists who conducts the testing, another analyzing the results in the lab, and a different group performing the work. Using accredited labs and valid scientific methods – or contracting with someone who does – is the best way to ensure you’ve done the work properly and reduced your [legal] exposure.”
Pre-work testing goes hand in hand with proper barriers and containment to protect your company from liability. “When you remove contaminated contents from a molded, microbial environment, they need to be clean when you return them,” explains Wozniak. “We design, build and condition an area that contains the contaminants so we can return clean contents to a clean building or area.
“ZipWall is a very good, very effective tool to use to set up areas for containment,” said Wozniak. “We use them to set up mini-containment areas that are free from public access. Sometimes conditions require something more sturdy and we’ll construct that, but ZipWall works great for its portability where you don’t need to build something more permanent.”
Alan Wozniak is president and CEO of Pure Air Control Services, a medically disciplined, solution oriented, indoor air environment diagnostic and remediation firm with more than 500 million square feet of home and building environment experience. Visit www.pureaircontrols.com for more information, or, contact the company at 1-800-422-7873.