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OSHA Region VI Protects Workers After Hurricanes Gustav and Ike

OSHA QuickCard Helped Save Life in Hurricane Katrina Response

OSHA also conducted a massive outreach effort to protect workers in recovery activities after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in 2005. Among the many successes resulting from OSHA's efforts, one example involved an OSHA QuickCard. Large quantities of the QuickCards were distributed throughout the Gulf Coast area to provide safety and health guidance for employees engaged in hurricane recovery activities.

In this example, a truck driver was delivering debris from the hurricane cleanup to a landfill in Cameron Parish, Louisiana. Personnel at the facility noticed that the driver's speech was slurred and that he was sweating profusely. They later observed that the driver had stopped sweating and that his skim was clammy. Recognizing the symptoms of heat stroke, the facility personnel started first aid procedures and called 911. The driver was taken to the hospital and treated for the early stages of heat stroke. He was released from the hospital that evening and made a full recovery. Hospital attendants said that the truck driver likely would have died if the facility personnel had waited another 15 minutes to call 911.

Facility personnel had received emergency medical training from the Corps of Engineers and other organizations. In addition, the OSHA Heat Stress QuickCard was stapled to a wall at the facility as a constant reminder of heat stress symptoms and appropriate treatment. The reinforcement of their emergency medical training provided by the QuickCard helped facility personnel quickly recognize the symptoms of heat stroke and take appropriate action.

Baton Rouge Area Office CAS Wil Hebert (in OSHA shirt) monitors contractor blue roof fall protection training.

Baton Rouge Area Office CAS Wil Hebert (in "OSHA" shirt) monitors contractor "blue roof" fall protection training.

OSHA representative from the Corpus Christi, Texas Area Office deliver PPE to a business owner and workers performing debris removal in Galveston, Texas.

OSHA representative from the Corpus Christi, Texas Area Office deliver PPE to a business owner and workers performing debris removal in Galveston, Texas.

Representatives from OSHA's Region VI Regional Office and Area Offices in Louisiana and Texas responded quickly to protect workers and others after Hurricanes Gustav and Ike hit the Gulf Coast in September 2008.

Baton Rouge, Louisiana Area Office

Soon after the hurricanes struck, the Baton Rouge Area Office worked with Region VI's Regional Response Team to conduct interventions and staff the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA's) Joint Field Office (JFO).

OSHA participated in many interventions to ensure safe work practices were used in hurricane recovery activities, including successful interventions that resulted from OSHA's relationships with its cooperative program participants. For example, OSHA used its relationship with Entergy Corporation, a power company and Voluntary Protection Programs (VPP) participant, to resolve a potentially hazardous situation. On September 6, 2008, Entergy linemen who were repairing utility lines observed U.S. Army Corps of Engineer contractors installing generators in an unsafe manner and informed OSHA. OSHA's liaison at FEMA's JFO informed the Corps of Engineers' representative at the JFO about this hazard. The Corps of Engineers corrected this hazard by informing its contractors to use proper procedures for installing generators. The Corps of Engineers also arranged for representatives from Entergy and the contractors to be located together at the Corps' designated area in the JFO so that the parties could communicate more effectively on safety issues during hurricane response activities.

In another example of OSHA using its relationship with cooperative program participants during the hurricane recovery, OSHA worked with Entergy and Shell Pipeline's Houma, Louisiana Station (also a VPP participant) to address the potential hazards associated with striking Shell's pipeline during Entergy's installation of new power poles after the hurricane. On September 18, 2008, Bruce Stark, OSHA's VPP Coordinator in the Baton Rouge Area Office, met with representatives from the two companies to address this issue. Mr. Stark was able to broker an agreement under which the two companies agreed on procedures to ensure that the pipeline would not be struck during installation of the poles.

In addition, OSHA worked with the Corps of Engineers and its contractor to provide fall protection training for subcontractors installing temporary blue plastic roof sheeting (blue roofs) on homes and buildings damaged by the hurricanes. Alex Novas and Will Hebert, OSHA Compliance Assistance Specialists (CASs) with the Baton Rouge Area Office, worked with the Corps of Engineers' contractor assigned to East Baton Rouge Parish. The contractor conducted mandatory fall protection training for its subcontractors and provided for Spanish translation when needed. As part of the training, the contractor constructed mock roofs at its temporary facility to help demonstrate the proper use of ladders and personal fall arrest systems. During the initial weeks of the recovery efforts, several hundred subcontractor employees received this training and OSHA outreach materials. The OSHA CASs monitored the training and accompanied Corps of Engineers safety representatives on site inspections. The CASs also distributed OSHA publications, including QuickCards and fact sheets, to the contractors and informed them how to access tools on OSHA's Web site, including the Hurricane Recovery page and the Hurricane eMatrix.

OSHA also worked with the Corps of Engineers to address fall protection measures used by the contractor assigned to install blue roofs in Terrebonne and Lafourche Parishes in southeast Louisiana. After discovering a fall incident at one of the work sites and conducting several interventions at sites where no fall protection was being used, OSHA expressed its concerns about this contractor to the Corps of Engineers. The Corps of Engineers met with the contractor to re-emphasize its contractual obligation to comply with OSHA standards. OSHA CAS Alex Novas also attended this meeting at the Corps of Engineers' request. After this meeting, the contractor's project manager wrote a letter to the Corps of Engineers confirming that it would implement additional fall protection measures for their employees and their subcontractors and comply with applicable OSHA standards.

Texas Area Offices

In response to Hurricane Ike, OSHA's Houston North, Houston South, and Corpus Christi Area Offices also conducted outreach to protect employees performing hurricane recovery work. Representatives from these Area Offices contacted the Incident Command Centers in affected counties and provided them with OSHA fact sheets and QuickCards related to hurricane recovery. OSHA personnel also provided technical assistance and OSHA publications at numerous sites where recovery operations were being performed, including demolition, tree trimming, roofing, and debris removal.

During their outreach activities, OSHA personnel observed many workers performing recovery work without the necessary personal protective equipment (PPE). Upon hearing about this potentially hazardous situation, Cindy Lewis, president of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) Gulf Coast Chapter, offered to request PPE donations from ASSE members and provide the PPE to OSHA for distribution to workers. The ASSE Gulf Coast Chapter had a longstanding relationship with OSHA's Houston Area Offices, including an Alliance signed in April 2003 that concluded in May 2007.

The ASSE Gulf Coast Chapter received PPE donations from 28 members and passed the PPE to OSHA. The OSHA Area Offices distributed approximately 4,000 items of PPE to workers conducting Hurricane Ike recovery operations. The PPE included hard hats, Class II reflective vests, safety glasses, and leather gloves. OSHA staff reported that employers and workers who received the PPE were generally very thankful.

For more information, contact Alex Novas, Region VI CAS, Baton Rouge Area Office, or Mark Hernandez, Region VI CAS, Houston South Area Office.

As of December 2008 (updated May 2009).

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