Since mid-July, the clerk of courts reports nearly 19 percent of its workforce has been afflicted with mold-related illness. There are a total of 240 employees who regularly work at the courthouse. The county council agreed the nearly 60-year-old facility, located on Magnolia Street, was in dire need of repairs. Approximately $300,000 has been set aside specifically to remove mold.
Unfortunately, the abatement is taking much longer than originally anticipated. Originally, contractors vowed to have the work finished by Labor Day. However, removal crews reportedly discovered even more mold problems. Numerous departments were displaced while work was conducted in their normal workplaces. Most employees are now back to their original locations. However, the county continues to receive worker complaints that include problems such as raspy voices, nosebleeds, sore throats, and swollen eyes.
According to the Herald-Journal, the county clerk forwards worker health-related complaints to the risk manager as well as the building superintendent.
Back when the removal process first got underway, the administrator for the county informed workers that treatment for mold-related ailments could be free-of-charge by the county’s occupational health doctor, located at the local regional hospital. Although this might seem benevolent, it’s likely also strategic. Spartanburg workers’ compensation attorneys know that the early documentation of mold-related medical ailments may be key to future claims. A doctor on contract with the county may be more likely to downplay the seriousness of a worker’s ailments.
Although local reporters have been trying to learn more about the issue, filing federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests for copies of complaints associated with the mold, the county has declined to produce them, citing privacy concerns. However, officials did say that before the mold abatement project started, it had received three complaints of mold-related health issues. The first of those was received back in October 2013. It was at that time that the county conducted an investigation of indoor air quality near the Family Court area. The final report by a subcontractor did indicate “slightly elevated” counts of certain mold strands, but this was not necessarily proof of a “mold issue.”
Then, two other complaints were received the following year. Another inspection followed, and again, slightly higher levels of mold were discovered. It was recommended at that time that all ventilation grills and vanes be removed, vacuumed, and cleaned with a special cleaning product.
County officials decided to move forward with mold abatement, and that’s when the number of complaints shot up. It’s possible that the abatement work could have kicked up fibers that might not have otherwise been released into the air. The county agreed to initiate a “facility needs” study, which is currently underway. Some officials are now mulling the possibility of constructing a brand new courthouse.
If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
Spartanburg County reports 45 mold-related workers’ comp claims, Oct. 2, 2016, By Bob Montgomery, GoUpstate.com
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