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Purpose and Use of this Matrix  

Work conditions change drastically after hurricanes and other natural disasters. In the wake of a hurricane, response and recovery workers will face additional challenges, such as downed power lines, downed trees, and high volumes of construction debris, while performing an otherwise familiar task/operation.

In this Hazard Exposure and Risk Assessment Matrix, OSHA provides information on many of the most common and significant additional hazards that response and recovery workers might encounter when working in an area recently devastated by a hurricane. This Matrix highlights a number of tasks and operations associated with disaster response and recovery. The Matrix is designed to help employers make decisions during their risk assessment that will protect their workers working in hurricane-impacted areas.

Workers' Rights

Workers have the right to:

  • Working conditions that do not pose a risk of serious harm.
  • Receive information and training (in a language and vocabulary the worker understands) about workplace hazards, methods to prevent them, and the OSHA standards that apply to their workplace.
  • Review records of work-related injuries and illnesses.
  • File a complaint asking OSHA to inspect their workplace if they believe there is a serious hazard or that their employer is not following OSHA's rules. OSHA will keep all identities confidential.
  • Exercise their rights under the law without retaliation, including reporting an injury or raising health and safety concerns with their employer or OSHA. If a worker has been retaliated against for using their rights, they must file a complaint with OSHA as soon as possible, but no later than 30 days.

For additional information, see OSHA's Workers page.

How to Contact OSHA

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 help 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 or call OSHA at 1-800-321-OSHA (6742), TTY 1-877-889-5627.

Before proceeding to any activity sheet, users are strongly encouraged to first review this page, Employer/Worker Responsibilities, General Recommendations, and Sampling and Monitoring Summary pages, which are linked directly above. These documents are integral in understanding and using the information contained in each activity sheet.

How to Use This Matrix

This Matrix includes general recommendations as well as best practices for specific tasks and operations being conducted in a hurricane response and recovery zone. The recommendations and activity sheets cover anticipated hazards, suggested controls, and applicable personal protective equipment (PPE) for hurricane response and recovery workers. To best use this Matrix, employers conducting response and recovery operations should review the general recommendations section and note the sections that are relevant to their workers. Employers should next review the list of specific activity sheets and select the sheets that apply to operations performed by their workers.

Employers need to evaluate the hazards involved in tasks and operations specific to their work sites in a hurricane-affected area and then identify the engineering controls, work practices, and PPE necessary to minimize exposure risk during the work. Using the general information and the specific activity sheets in this Matrix, employers may create or update their job hazard analyses (JHAs), and select appropriate control measures, work practices, and personal protective equipment (PPE) for hurricane response and recovery specific to their work. Employers may also use this information to conduct worker safety briefings and seek worker input on other hazards they encounter during jobs in areas affected by the hurricanes. See Job Hazard Analysis (OSHA 3071, 2002).

In addition, the guidance in this document may also be used in any of the 26 States which operate OSHA-approved State Plans should hurricanes or other natural disasters occur in these jurisdictions. State job safety and health standards must be at least as effective as Federal OSHA standards but may include different or more stringent requirements. State plan standards apply to State and local government employers and workers, including emergency responders and other public safety workers, who are not otherwise covered by Federal OSHA, in addition to private sector employers and workers. For additional information, see OSHA's website on State Occupational Safety and Health Plans.

Response and recovery workers may be employed by Federal, State, local, and private employers such as the armed forces and other Federal entities, and State and local police and fire departments, which may not be covered by Federal OSHA requirements. The information contained in the Matrix includes both requirements and best practices to assist in protecting all response and recovery workers. It is anticipated that workers who will be performing tasks under the adverse conditions of response and recovery work will have been effectively trained in job-specific safety procedures and in the safe use of tools, machinery, and personal protective equipment specific to their work.

This document will be updated as necessary. While this document was specifically developed for response and recovery efforts for Hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, it has application to future hurricane and flood responses.

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Limitations of the Matrix

The Matrix does not provide an in-depth analysis of OSHA standards and regulations and cannot address all hazards. It does not increase or diminish any OSHA requirement or employer obligation under those requirements. It is intended as a guide and quick reference for employers and response and recovery workers. The Matrix captures major activities involved in hurricane response and recovery, highlights many of the hazards associated with them, and recommends "best practices." Employers must evaluate the specific hazards associated with the job/operation at the site where the work is being performed.

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Employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthful workplace for their workers. OSHA's role is to assure the safety and health of America's workers by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach, and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual improvement in workplace safety and health.

The Hazard Exposure and Risk Assessment Matrix for Hurricane Response and Recovery Work provides a general overview of particular topics related to current OSHA standards. It does not alter or determine compliance responsibilities in OSHA standards or the
Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, or the equivalent State Plan standards and requirements. Because interpretations and enforcement policy may change over time, you should consult current OSHA/State Plan administrative interpretations and decisions by the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission and the courts for additional guidance on OSHA compliance requirements. Employers should modify their procedures as appropriate when additional, relevant information becomes available.

This publication is in the public domain and may be reproduced, fully or partially, without permission. Source credit is requested but not required.

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How This Matrix Was Developed

The Hazard Exposure and Risk Assessment Matrix for Hurricane Response and Recovery Work (Matrix) is a guidance document that recommends work practices and PPE, and highlights key provisions from applicable standards for the jobs, tasks, and operations that have been, are currently, or are expected to be vital for hurricane response and recovery efforts.

These guidelines were developed as part of a Mission Assignment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), through the implementation of the Worker Safety and Health Support Annex (Annex) of the National Response Plan (NRP), and in coordination with the Cooperating Agencies identified in the Annex. The focus of this Mission Assignment is on Federally deployed assets (Federal workers and Federal contractors) and the activities they are likely to perform. Although designed for this workforce, the information contained in the document may benefit all individuals conducting these tasks.

The NRP Worker Safety and Health Support Annex requires proactive pre-incident as well as incident-specific worker safety and health coordination. OSHA and its cooperative agencies believe that this document addresses both of these responsibilities and provides information that should help reduce worker exposure to, and risk from, the hazards encountered during response and recovery efforts.

This document is based on presently available information as well as current occupational safety and health provisions and standards. Employers should modify their procedures as appropriate when additional, relevant information becomes available through the established Incident Command System (ICS), Joint Field Office (JFO), or other coordination center or when modifications to the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), or to its standards and regulations necessitate revision.

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