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Finding and selecting a mold remediation contractor.

Unlike lead or asbestos, mold is a dynamic contaminant. And mold investigation and abatement utilize interdisciplinary practices and multiple documentation methods. The techniques for getting mold out of heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, for example, are very different from those that apply to a contaminated basement. And if a remediation is not properly planned or implemented, mold probably will return, and very likely spread to other locations.

In the race to grab a share of the market, more than a few mold remediation contractors have rushed to offer their services. Even a contractor with the best intentions, however, may overlook important details and precautions.

So how do you find a remediator you can trust? Unfortunately, due to the current lack of standards governing the industry, buyers of remediation services face a bewildering array of self-described certifications, many of which may not be consistent or comprehensive enough to assure quality service.

The good news is several industry organizations are working to develop standardized education, uniform standards of care and acknowledged certifications. Until these are available, the following suggestions should help you find the right people to help rid your company of its mold problem.

1. Hire a firm with appropriate experience. The best evidence of a firm's ability is its experience with similar assignments. If your mold issue is related to water or moisture intrusion, it would be wise to use a company that has experience in this area. If the HVAC system is at issue, then look for appropriate experience in mechanical hygiene projects.

2. Hire a firm with legitimate credentials. Most remediators will rattle off a list of their certifications and training. But certifications and licensing for remediation contractors are not all created equal.

The Association of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration and the Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification provide training, certifications and guidance for water damage restoration contractors. The Indoor Air Quality Association trains and certifies mold abatement contractors. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) certifies HVAC cleaning specialists. The American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers also provides information on the sources of moisture and mold problems specific to HVAC equipment and operations.

Look for these qualifications, but do not make them your sole selection criterion. The mere fact that a firm has been certified by one of these organizations guarantees nothing.

3. Hire a firm that understands and applies existing industry protocols. A qualified remediator should be familiar with generally accepted guidance documents and standards, and include them as references, where appropriate, in its standard operating procedures.

One example is the Environmental Protection Administration's Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings (2001). For projects involving HVAC remediation and pipe insulation, the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association and NADCA provide guidelines for moisture and mold prevention. The Guidelines on Assessment and Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Environments, from the New York City Department of Health, Bureau of Environmental and Occupational Disease Epidemiology, is another standard reference.

4. Who will perform the work? Once you narrow your list of prospective contractors, find out who will be in the field. Even a highly qualified firm may be so busy with multiple contracts that it has to send out less experienced employees who may be unable to answer many of the questions that can arise during remediation. To avoid this, ask which of the contractor's senior personnel will provide oversight, and who will be your point of contact. Insist that the technicians and other field personnel on your site will have completed intensive mold remediation workshops and water restoration training courses, and make sure they have field experience.

5. Consider a consulting professional. If your mold problem is major (over two hundred square feet) you may want to retain an industrial hygienist or indoor air quality consultant. He or she can identify the types and extent of molds, anticipate their potential spread and effects, and provide an inspection and analysis. Typically, they will make any necessary remediation and testing recommendations, write the remediation specifications and oversee the con tractor performing the work. (The most widely recognized credential is the Certified Industrial Hygienist (CIH) from the American Industrial Hygiene Association.)

6. Avoid conflicts of interest. If you have hired one firm to identify and delineate a mold problem, have a different firm provide the remediation services. Keeping the roles separate avoids potential conflict of interest. Even a professional CIH should not perform the cleanup, though he or she may stay on as a program manager to oversee the contractor's work.

7. Make certain the contractor is adequately insured. Select a contractor that will insure the project with adequate liability coverage and agree to indemnify you for any losses arising out of their work, including but not limited to, defense and indemnification of any and all claims or suits that may be brought against you. Insist on a written contract and have an attorney review both the proof of liability insurance and the proposed contract language.

8. Protect yourself in third-party situations. If you must screen prospective contractors for the benefit of a third party to whom you owe remediation, you should provide a list of possible choices but make it clear that they are responsible for the ultimate selection of the contractor and that your organization does not assume responsibility for, or guarantee the quality of, the selected contractor's work.

9. Protect yourself against the unexpected. Make sure the contract states the cost basis for remediating additional areas that may be discovered after work begins. It will be easier to control your costs if the price for changed orders is based on the area or volume of the additional work rather than the contractor's additional time. An area-based price structure reduces the motivation for contractors to drag their feet or otherwise increase the amount of labor.

Online American Industrial Hygiene Association Association of Specialists in Cleaning and Restoration Indoor Air Quality Association Indoor Environmental Standards Organization International Association of Mold Remediation Specialists Institute of Inspection, Cleaning and Restoration Certification American Indoor Air Quality Council drpt1.html Guidelines on Assessment and Remediation of Fungi in Indoor Environments Mold Remediation in Schools and Commercial Buildings

Sharon Stecker is a principal environmental scientist at BEM Systems, Inc. of Chatham, New Jersey. Eric Harrison is counsel at Methfessel & Werbel of Edison, New Jersey.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Title Annotation:heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and mold control
Comment:Finding and selecting a mold remediation contractor.(heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems and mold control)
Author:Stecker, Sharon; Harrison, Eric
Publication:Risk Management
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Feb 1, 2003
Previous Article:Media and mold exposure.
Next Article:Recovery opportunities in mold losses.

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