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Healthcare Renovations Must Consider Mold, Legionella Risks

Healthcare facilities need to take a proactive approach and assess potential risks posed by mold and legionella before starting any repair, renovation or construction project, according to an environmental advisory released by the ACE Group.

“Legionella and Mold: Construction and Renovation Risks at Healthcare Facilities” examines the potential risks of pollutants, such as the bacteria that causes the potentially fatal Legionnaires’ disease, and explores ways to mitigate them during construction or renovation.

The potential for spreading mold spores or water droplets, which contain legionella, increases any time a contractor or employee opens up a wall or works on water, heating or cooling systems without taking precautions, Ace Group said in its advisory.

Mold, which grows best in damp conditions, can cause severe reactions including fever and shortness of breath in people with serious allergies.

The ACE environmental advisory, the first of a series of papers designed to inform industry issues faced by risk managers, says the maintenance and planning for construction projects can be complex. However, ACE notes that specialized expertise, from environmental consultants and certified industrial hygenists, has been developed to help plan, monitor and manage construction and renovation work to minimize environmental risks. Site-specific training programs also are available.

Proactive risk management often includes healthcare-specific premises pollution insurance policies that offer coverage for mold and legionella exposure, ACE Group said.

The environmental advisory recommends healthcare facilities develop water intrusion management plans in case of a roof leak or water release by a sprinkler head, pipe or valve. Technology, such as infrared cameras that can find moisture behind walls and above ceilings, also can help minimize risks, the ACE Group said.

The dangers posed by mold and legionella has prompted the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers to develop new standards, which are scheduled to be released this year.

In May, the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers along with American Institute of Architects, US Green Building Council, Illuminating Engineering Society and DOE developed the advanced design recommendations to help large hospitals achieve 50 percent energy savings.

Photo: ACE Group

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