Alaska OSHA Inspectors Scrutinize Worker Exposure to Mold at Anchorage Hilton
Citing health concerns, workers turn to state regulator to assure the Hotel provides them proper training and equipment
The Hilton Anchorage Hotel was the site of an inspection on Monday June 23 by the Alaska Occupational Safety and Health Department (AKOSH) to investigate a complaint by Hilton workers who allege that they have been exposed to mold at the Hotel without adequate training and protective equipment.
On April 4, 2014, the Hilton identified three strains of mold in three out-of-service guest rooms: aspergillus/penicillium; chaetomium; and ulocladium. All three grow on materials such as damp sheetrock and wallboard. Leaking pipes was identified as the source of the moisture.
During the spring, the Hilton conducted air sampling on various guest rooms. On April 1, the Hilton found that one room had a total mold spore/fragment count of 3,800 per cubic meter. On April 25, the Hilton found that a different room had a total mold spore/fragment count of 1,800 per cubic meter. Both of these rooms were closed to the public while the mold was being remediated.
Some workers have reported to management allergy-like and other symptoms that they are concerned are a consequence of exposure to mold in areas where they work. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that: “Some people are sensitive to molds. For these people, exposure to molds can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation. Some people, such as those with serious allergies to molds, may have more severe reactions.”
Workers want AKOSH to ensure that they are not exposed to unsafe conditions and that they receive adequate protective equipment and training when they work around mold. On April 15, UNITE HERE Local 878 requested the Hilton to describe all training and protective equipment that the Hotel has provided to these employees, but the Hotel did not provide that information.
On April 25, Hilton reported that it had found 29 rooms with “possible mold issues” and on May 6, it reported that 48 rooms had the “possibility of water damage,” which it reported it had either repaired or was working on as of that time. The Hotel has implemented what it calls “an aggressive preventative maintenance program for all guest rooms to ensure there are not unsafe levels of mold.” It has denied that its employees are exposed to unsafe conditions.
If AKOSH determines that the Hilton has violated any worker safety regulations, it will issue a citation. The Hilton will have the opportunity to contest it. There has been no determination of wrongdoing to date.
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