May 3, 2017
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – As Midwest residents deal with historic flooding in southeastern Missouri, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration urges workers and the public at-large to be aware of the hazards they may encounter and what steps are needed to protect themselves as they begin clean-up activities.
OSHA resource officers are headed to hard-hit areas to assist local emergency responders with advice and information on important safety tips to prevent potential causes of injury and illness among those active in clean-up activities.
“Our main concern is the safety and health of workers and volunteers who may be exposed to various hazards such as electrocution, drowning, chemical exposures, struck-by, caught-in and other hazards during clean-up,” said Kimberly Stille, OSHA’s regional administrator in Kansas City. “With more rain in the forecast for the Ozarks and mid-Mississippi Valley in the week to come, residents and workers may be exposed again to flash flood hazards as rivers are already swollen.”
Protective measures should involve:
Evaluating the work area for all hazards.
Providing training for the task.
Task-specific hazard exposure monitoring.
Utilizing engineering or work practice controls to mitigate hazards.
Using personal protective equipment.
Assuming all power lines are live.
Following proper hygiene procedures.
Correctly using portable generators, saws, ladders, vehicles and other equipment.
Utilizing traffic work zones.
Implementing safe work procedures.
Clean-up work may involve restoring electricity, communications, water and sewer services; demolition; entry into flooded areas and removal of floodwater from structures; debris removal; tree-trimming; structural repair; roadway and bridge repair; use of cranes, aerial lifts and other heavy equipment; hazardous waste operations and emergency response activities; and repair of dams and levees.
Inherent to these operations are hazards such as:
Illness from exposure to contaminated water or food.
Risk of excessive exposure or heat stress.
Electrocution dangers related to downed electrical wires.
Carbon monoxide and electrical hazards associated with the use of portable generators.
Fall and struck-by hazards involved in tree-trimming or working at heights.
Being caught in unprotected excavations or confined spaces.
Burns, lacerations and musculoskeletal injuries.
Being struck by traffic or heavy equipment while working.
Risk of drowning in surges of moving water during clean-up.
OSHA maintains a comprehensive website on keeping disaster site workers safe during clean-up and recovery operations. It contains fact sheets, concise “quick cards,” frequently asked questions, safety and health guides and information, public service announcements in English and Spanish, and links to information from other sources.
Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to assure these conditions for America’s working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.
To ask questions, obtain compliance assistance, file a complaint, or report amputations, eye loss, workplace hospitalizations, fatalities or situations posing imminent danger to workers, the public should call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency’s Kansas City Area Office at 816-483-9531 or St. Louis Area Office at 314-425-4249.