Sept. 3, 2016
ATLANTA – As they recover from the impacts of Hermine, a hurricane that continued as a tropical storm, Florida’s emergency workers, employers and the public at-large should be aware of the hazards they may encounter and take necessary steps to stay safe, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration urges.
“Recovery work should not send you to the hospital emergency room,” said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA’s regional administrator for the Southeast. “A range of safety and health hazards exist following storms. You can minimize these dangers with knowledge, safe work practices and personal protective equipment. OSHA wants to make certain that all working men and women – including volunteers – return home at the end of the workday.”
Storm and tornado cleanup may involve hazards related to restoring electricity, communications, and water and sewer services. Other hazards pertain to demolition activities; debris cleanup; tree trimming; and structural, roadway and bridge repair; hazardous waste operations and emergency response activities. OSHA has a comprehensive website with guidance to keep disaster-site workers safe in tornado and storm cleanup and recovery operations.
Flooded areas have unique cleanup challenges, including dam and levee repair, removal of floodwater from structures, and repairing downed electrical wires in standing water. Workers and residents taking defensive action to protect structures or evacuate severely impacted areas may encounter hazards, such as rapidly rising streams and moving water. OSHA has many resources on flood preparedness and response detailing how to stay safe during floods and subsequent cleanup.
Only workers provided with the proper training, equipment and experience should conduct cleanup activities.
Protective measures should include the following:
Evaluating all work areas for hazards.
Employing engineering or work practice controls to mitigate hazards.
Using personal protective equipment.
Assuming all power lines are live.
Using portable generators, saws, ladders, vehicles and other equipment properly.
Heeding safety precautions for traffic work zones.
Individuals involved in recovery efforts may call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or visit the agency’s website to reach local representatives who can provide on-site assistance.
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 ensure 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.