Safety Blog

Mold removal and remediation can be very dirty, tedious, and sometimes even dangerous, especially if you are not wearing the proper protective equipment. However, if you are not educated on the proper mold removal and remediation guidelines as provided by OSHA and other state and federal regulatory committees, then you are going to have problems when removing and remediating mold; not just from a rules standpoint, but more importantly from a safety standpoint. Here, we want to make the process safer, but also simpler. So, to do this, we have put together this protective clothing for mold removal guide to help assist you in determining what to do when removing mold, and how to do it safely and properly within rules and regulations.

protective clothing for mold removal

Generally speaking, mold removal projects are usually split up into 4 different categories depending on the size of the problem and the extent of the contamination. Once you have categorized the problem, you will have to determine what equipment you will want to use and wear, and how you should go about the removal and remediation process.

Small Isolated Areas

These areas are usually about 10 square feet or less of visible isolated mold growth. If you determine your mold problem is a small isolated area, then you will want to note the following guidelines:

  • Keep the work area unoccupied. You don’t need to remove anyone from adjacent areas, but it is recommended that any infants, people recovering from surgery, immune suppressed people, or people with chronic inflammatory lung diseases not be anywhere near the site, especially during the removal process. 
  • You do not necessarily need to contain the work area.
  • Dust suppression methods should be used, such as misting as opposed to soaking surfaces prior to remediation.
  • Trash all water-damaged materials and materials that are visibly coated with mold that cannot be cleaned. This would consist of porous materials like carpeting, drywall, or insulation that have been wet for at least 48 hours.
  • Seal all materials being removed in plastic bags. If you don’t, then you could quickly have a mold problem stemming from your garbage.
  • Minimize dust disturbance to reduce spreading of fungal spores.
  • NEVER eat, drink, or smoke within the work area.
  • Be sure to have a natural or local exhaust ventilation available and working during the ENTIRE removal process.
  • Use detergent to clean hard and non-porous materials. Once you rinse them, you may need to disinfect them with a biocide such as bleach. NEVER mix bleach with products that contain ammonia.
  • Once the entire area has been cleaned and is COMPLETELY dry, then vacuum the area with a HEPA vacuum. You can also use HEPA vacuums for dust that has settled on surfaces outside the work area.
  • Work areas used by remediation workers for egress should be cleaned with a damp cloth or mop. You will want to use a detergent solution for this.
  • Leave the area COMPLETELY clean, dry, and free of any visible debris.

protective clothing for mold removal

Mid-Sized Isolated Areas

Mid-sized areas are usually around 10-30 square feet of visible mold. If your problem is a mid-sized mold area, then you will follow all the guidelines listed below the small isolated mold areas. The only differences are:

  • The area is  a little bigger, so you will have to adjust the amount of cleaning supplies you need accordingly. 
  • Containment is not completely necessary, but it is recommended that you cover surfaces in the work area that could become contaminated further with secured plastic sheets that will contain dust and debris.
  • Again, leave the area COMPLETELY clean, dry, and free of any visible debris.

Large Isolated Areas

Large isolated areas usually consist of an area of isolated mold that is 30 to 100 contiguous square feet. If you have a large mold problem, then you will want to follow these guidelines:

  • Develop a logical remediation plan. If you expect abatement procedures to produce a lot of dust, then you will want to follow the extensive contamination procedures below. This usually includes abrasive cleaning of contaminated surfaces, demolition of plaster walls, or the mold concentration is visibly heavy.
  • Before starting work, consult with industrial hygienists and other environmental health and safety professionals who have previous experience performing microbial investigations or mold remediation. 
  • The work areas AND areas directly adjacent to the work area should be unoccupied.
  • Any surfaces that could become contaminated further should be secured with plastic sheets that will contain dust and debris from spreading.
  • Seal any ventilation ducts or grills within the work area as well as areas directly adjacent.
  • Use dust suppression methods like you would with a small or mid-sized project.
  • Clean and remove materials like you would with a small or mid-sized project.
  • Areas in and around the work area should be HEPA vacuumed and cleaned with a damp cloth or mop. Use a detergent solution for this.
  • Like any other mold area, ALL AREAS should be COMPLETELY dry and free from contamination and debris.

protective clothing for mold removal

Extensive Contamination 

Unfortunately, sometimes your mold problem will be extensive. These areas are usually over 100 contiguous square feet of mold and the contamination is severe. For these types of projects, follow these guidelines:

  • Since the area is larger than 100 square feet, your remediation plan should address the work area isolation, the use of exhaust fans with HEPA filtration, and the design of airlocks and a decontamination room. 
  • Consult with industrial hygienists and other environmental health and safety professionals before starting the project like you would with a large project.
  • The work area should be unoccupied. Anyone who is not involved in the mold removal or remediation process should be nowhere near the work space unless you are 100% confident that all mold spores are contained. Regardless, infants, people with disabilities, people recovering from surgery, immune suppressed people, and people with chronic inflammatory lung diseases should not be anywhere near the work space, regardless of the level of containment.
  • Cover and seal any surfaces that could be contaminated further during the course of removal. Use duct tape to tape the plastic sheeting down.
  • Contain the affected area. COMPLETELY isolate the area that will be evaluated and remediated.  Use air locks at entry and exit points and provide a COMPLETELY sealed decontamination room that is connected to the containment area where mold remediation workers must remove PPE before exiting the area.
  • Turn the HVAC system off and seal ventilation ducts and grills in the work space and spaces adjacent to prevent mold spores from spreading.
  • Maintain negative pressure within the work area to reduce the spread of spores to adjacent areas. Use can use an exhaust fan equipped with HEPA filtration to do this.
  • Use dust suppression methods like we mentioned in the small, mid-sized, and large areas.
  • Clean, seal, and remove materials as mentioned in the small, mid-sized, and large areas. Wipe down or HEPA vacuum outside surfaces of bags of material that are being removed.
  • HEPA vacuum the contained area, the decontamination room, and then clean or mop it with a detergent solution.
  • Again, just like any other sized project, make sure to COMPLETELY clean, dry, and rid the area of visible debris.

protective clothing for mold removal

Protective Clothing for Mold Removal Projects

Personal protective equipment, or PPE, is generally recommended for any and all emergency responses, recovery tasks, and operations. The general PPE equipment that you will want to have is:

  • A hard hat for possible overhead impact or electrical threats. 
  • Eye protection that has side shields.
  • Gloves specific to the job hazards that will be expected. This can range from heavy-duty leather work gloves for debris with sharp edges or chemical protective gloves for possible chemicals that you may come in contact with.
  • ANSI approved protective footwear.
  • If necessary, you will need respiratory protection. When dealing with mold, N, R, or P95 filtering facepieces can be used for nuisance dusts and mold. For odors, use filters with a charcoal layer.

Additional PPE You May Need

  • N, R, or P95 respirators; half or full face N, R, or P95 respirators should be used for areas under 100 square feet.
  • Use a full face respirator with N, R, or P100 filters or areas larger than 100 square feet, areas where mold is heavy, or areas where a significant amount of dust is produced during the removal and cleaning process.
  • For odors, use charcoal-impregnated filters.
  • Use an abrasive-blasting respirator when silica is being used for abrasive blasting. 
  • Goggles that are non-vented.
  • Protective clothing to prevent cross-contamination and skin contact with chemicals or mold. If the area is over 100 square feet, make sure your clothing covers your ENTIRE body. This includes your head and feet.
  • Long gloves made of a material that will protect the individual from chemicals that will be handled during the process of surface cleaning.

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Safety in the workplace should be a habit, not just something you do whenever a safety audit is occurring. It is urged that all plants and factories do a risk assessment of their work spaces every day prior to the beginning of any work. Not only will this increase the safety of your workplace, but it will also give you a better idea where your site stands when an actual auditor comes through. Individually, workers should check the machines they are working with every morning to ensure that it is fit and safe for use for the day. Usually, most safety hazards can be minimized with good housekeeping. There is a reason the OHS motto is “A place for everything and everything in its place.” Just by simply following this motto you should be able to at least reduce the amount and threat of site safety hazards.

However, this is obviously not the only thing you should be doing to improve workplace safety. There are a number of things one should keep in mind. To help you with this, we have put together a list of the 10 golden rules you should always follow when promoting site safety.

Rule #1

NEVER carry out a task until you are trained to do so.

If the conditions in which you work change, stop what you are doing immediately and reassess the situation.

Rule #2

ALWAYS know what you need to do in the case of an emergency.

Everyone should have the appropriate information for good communication during an emergency. All offices and notice boards across the site should have emergency numbers listed, and you need to always let someone know if you are leaving the site premises, regardless of what the reason is. You want to be familiar with site emergency evacuation procedures (these should be on the back door of every door on the site). You also want to make sure, every day before you start work, that there are the proper amount of emergency response resources available along with knowing the emergency master points and emergency routes on the site. ALWAYS follow the direction of your supervisors or OHS representative in the area.

Rule #3 DO NOT enter restricted areas until you are expressly given permission. 

Before ever approaching mobile equipment, ALWAYS get express permission from the operator, remain clear of machinery that is in operation, and make sure that all dangerous areas are cornered off.

site safety

Rule #4

ALWAYS conduct an inspection before starting work and DO NOT operate any vehicle or mobile plant that could have a faulty brake system. 

You need to remember to comply with all site speed limits and traffic regulations. All occupants in vehicles should always have their seat belts on, and make sure that NO ONE who is not authorized operates any type of vehicle. If you are a pedestrian on site, always remember to stay clear of moving machinery, vehicles, or any other mobile equipment.

Rule #5

NEVER work at a height above 1.8 meters without training or authorization. 

The only time you want to work at any type of height is when there is simply no other way to complete the task. If you do have to work at heights, then always ensure that person protective equipment is tagged and tested and is in good, safe condition. The person who is spotting should be able to instigate an emergency response at any time if a situation should arise. Also, make sure to take preventive measures to prevent falling objects that could injure or even kill workers.

Rule #6

ALWAYS make sure that all energy sources are safely isolated and energy released before starting to work on equipment. 

Everyone must identify the source of energy associated with a job before beginning it. Make sure that all sources of energy that have the capability to cause damage or harm are isolated at the source, test and check the isolation before beginning work, and ensure that all safety and guard systems have been put back once the job is done.

Rule #7

Make sure that all lifting equipment is tagged and tested, capable of lifting the load, and you have been trained and authorized to use the specified equipment. 

You only want to operate lifting equipment when the load and reach isn’t exceeding the lifting equipment’s capacities. All safety devices need to be working properly and you also want to ensure that you, along with all other workers, are NEVER situated within the drop zone or underneath a suspended load.

site safety

Rule #8

ALWAYS make sure that someone within the company knows where you are, your travel plans, and when you are supposed to trigger an emergency response. 

Potential hazard areas and associated risks should ALWAYS be assessed before entering a work zone, remote area, or if you are working alone. NEVER conduct any work alone unless you are expressly given authorization. You also want to establish with your supervisor a daily communication plan before beginning any work remotely or alone. If your supervisor isn’t there, then go over your communication plan with the alternate.

Rule #9

ALWAYS make a conscious effort to protect the surrounding environment wherever your work is being done. 

You want to know your site’s designated areas for smoke, eating, and disposal of litter. You also need to know how to dispose of used oil, lubricants, florescent bulbs, and metal shavings.

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Combustible dust is a very dangerous and very legitimate threat that can create fire hazards or even cause an explosion. Manufacturers need to be aware of and address the intrinsic hazards when machining, grinding, drilling, or polishing materials like magnesium, titanium, aluminum, stainless steel, carbon fiber, and iron oxides.

According to NFPA 484 Annex // A., combustible metal dust is “a particulate metal that presents a fire or explosion hazard when suspended in air or the process specific oxidizing medium over a range of concentrations, regardless of particle size or shape.”

A system that addresses the process requirements, materials, and the volumes processed must be put in place. When constructing equipment that will be in contact with combustible dust or hazardous materials, it must be done in compliance with HazLoc Class II disciplines and applicable N.F.P.A., A.N.S.I., and A.S.M.E. regulations. Customized systems are normally particular to the application and can be sized correctly for the conveyance, collection, and control of the ratios, materials, and expected volumes of debris that will be recovered.

A general comprehension of the problems and solutions as they relate to developments that are currently occurring in systems configurations and industry best practices demands an explanation for why such devastating events can occur. Since we are working to protect workers and make plants safer, we will also be reviewing measures that can be taken to avoid such events.


Direct: Fires related to combustible dust happen whenever combustible materials are exposed to an ignition source. This can happen during machining, or after machining when materials have ignition sensitivity levels that have the ability to cause a deflagration.

Transfer: Combustible dust can also become a problem during the transfer for collection. It can affect duct work elbows and other restricted joints and can create a spark moving the ignition source towards a collection point as a result of high speed impact. The ignition source can also be created by non-grounded mechanisms building up an electrostatic charge, exposure to electrical motors, or other equipment that could possibly emit sparks.

Collected: A further removal of the ignition to additional materials in the process stream can occur as a result of a spark or ember being transferred to a collection location and maintaining its ignition energy.

Accumulated Residuals: You can also transmit an initial deflagration to secondary areas when layers of dust accumulate over time. If the dust particles are suspended as a dust cloud, then you would create a worst case scenario with an explosion easily being created as the deflagration will gain significant and rapid expansion due to the higher volume of combustibles in the area.

combustible dust


Suspension: Explosions from dust happen when combustible materials are suspended in an air/fuel concentration that is consistent with rapid ignition transmission. If even a primary explosion is caused by the initial deflagration, then the shockwaves associated will extricate any and all dust that has collected on walls, overhead beams, duct work, machinery, or collection vents. Once these materials have been extricated, they will go airborne and contribute to a much larger secondary explosion due to the presence of the initial flame front ignition source created by the first deflagration. The devastation caused by this second explosion has resulted in several injuries, deaths, and major destruction of property all across the United States.

Comingled Materials: Safety Data Sheets (SDS) hardly ever refer to the intrinsic hazards of finite particles of dust that are created during the machining process. They don’t mention the minimum ignition energy (MIE) and minimum ignition temperature (MIT) thresholds and barely mention the problem of reactivity to other materials. In industries like aerospace, usually there are many materials in a waster stream. For instance, drilling and assembling aircraft structures can create titanium, carbon fiber, stainless steel, and aluminum in many different combinations. Comingled materials such as these will cause a secondary handling problem that SDS specifications do not mention. Using a single collection system to recover different materials from different operations should be analyzed with sample testing. The sample testing will determine if a volatile combination of materials with lower MIE than each by themselves is present.

Housekeeping: Housekeeping will add to the overall cost of manufacturing operating expenditures, but it will heighten worker and plant safety. You will need special equipment to remove all combustible dusts from an area. Sometimes, entire areas need to be shut down in order for access to be possible. Since this is the case, a lot of cleaning duties are not performed as often as they should be. This only increases the risks associated with combustible dust that has accumulated. If you want to minimize risks, then efforts must be made to provide safety awareness materials, safe handling protocols, and training. For instance, “blowing off” debris from recessed areas using plant compressed air should be avoided. The resulting dust in suspension can easily create an explosion with the right conditions.

Testing: One of the first steps when dealing with any debris created within the production waste stream is to include combustible dust testing of the materials for explosive severity and ignition sensitivity as they are generated in the work environment. It is imperative to send a sample or samples to an independent lab so they can be tested under N.F.P.A. Code 68. It is mandatory to refer to this data when designing explosion protection and fire prevention equipment. It’s also mandatory when designing process systems with enough capacity to safely support subsequent collection, conveyance, and containment of materials being recovered.

 combustible dust

Take a Proactive Approach; Collect-Control-Contain

To optimize collection efficiencies and transfer capabilities of heavy combustible dusts, modern systems have implemented both high volume air flow and high vacuum. The capability to control and collect the transfer of debris and dust is directly related to the size, volume, weight, specific gravity, and surface area of the material being addressed. Vacuuming in itself does not give the means to act on any materials unless there is significant air volume available to create the motive force behind transfer. Generally speaking, dust collectors depend on high volumes of air flow and, as a result, impart minimal vacuum on materials to maintain their velocities in collection ducts.

Collect Dust As It Is Created

Most hazardous dust migration has been eliminated using special high volume-high vacuum/dust recovery systems to collect debris simultaneuous to generation, further containing the recovered materials and minimizing the burden of housekeeping. In the aerospace industry, complete recovery of drill chips and dust at the work piece is currently being used on many different projects as well as in automotive applications. Recovery of debris has been achieved within assembly and machining operations which have the same process.

Control Dust While It Is Being Transferred

Recovering combustible particulate solids must assure that air/material ratios never approach critical Minimal Explosive Concentrations (MEC) which could support ignition resulting in a deflagration. This could travel either up or down stream of the event. MEC ratios can vary based on materials and process requirements, however, the speed at which materials are transferred and the separation of these materials by excessive air volumes creates a means to isolate one particle from the next. High volume rate transfer also maintains the materials in suspension. This minimizes their contact with duct work, and thus, reduces the build-up of fines, clogs, static, and sparks.

Contain Dust for Safe Disposal

Several terms apply to the initial separation of the combustible dusts from the recovering air stream such as Centrifugal, Vortex, or Gate type systems. Initial contact between recovered dusts and the receiving receptacle will act to slow the materials in the air stream to the point that heavy materials drop out of the air stream before making contact with any filtering media. General dust collectors employ filter “bag-house” configurations that have high pressure air jets to back flush the filters occassionally to maintain collection abilities as the finer materials in these types of systems have a tendency to migrate into the filter media. Rotary valves or gates at the bottom of the recovery receptacles allow recovered materials to be collected for disposal.

System Features

Items which may have been considered as “OPTIONAL” in the past should now be considered as MINIMAL requirements in systems conveying and collecting combustible dusts in compliance to HazLoc Class II.  Terminology may differ between industries and suppliers, but the intent to provide safety in the workplace remains the same.

combustible dust

Industry Best Practices Include:

  • Grounding – and incorporating non-spark producing elements, materials, motors, switches.
  • Spark / Heat detection – includes multiple high temperature rise sensors.
  • Explosion detection – detect first pressure wave of an initial explosion ( see isolation below ).
  • Explosion venting – pressure relief and / or rupture disk,  vents explosion toward a safe area.
  • Flame / Fire / Deflagration  Suppression – appropriate to the material(s) being encountered.
  • Flameless venting – prevents flame travel beyond location of occurrence.
  • Isolation-Explosion gates – prevents flame travel “up-stream” or to other process areas.
  • Minimized debris contained for safe daily removal.
  • Plant personnel education, awareness and training.
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