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Mass Care Shelter Occupational Hazards

Mass care shelters are temporary public living quarters that provide physical shelter, feeding and first aid. This type of shelter does not provide specialized medical care. An Incident of National Significance (INS) can create challenges to the security, safety and health of persons who work in mass care shelters: federal or state employees, their contractors and employees of non-governmental organizations (NGO). Each sheltering situation will be unique, depending on the INS. To reduce work-related injuries and illnesses, shelter staff and their employers/sponsors should anticipate, recognize, and reduce/eliminate occupational hazards in mass care shelters. Below are some of the potential occupational hazards that may develop after a shelter has been set up.. The links above contain a safety and health orientation for shelter employees; a walk through audit tool for daily use by shelter staff or the designated safety official or designee; and safety and health resources.

  • Safety
  • Slips, trips and falls
  • Musculoskeletal injuries
  • Electrical hazards
  • Sharp materials
  • Animal/insect bites/stings
  • Heat/cold stress
  • Fire hazards
  • Generator fumes (carbon monoxide)
  • Health
  • Biological/chemical exposures
  • Communicable diseases/infections
  • Bloodborne pathogens
  • Sleep/rest cycle disruption
  • Traumatic stress
  • Food and water contamination
  • Aggravation of pre-existing health conditions
  • Security
  • Check-in/check-out
  • Safe driving/commuting
  • Criminal acts
  • Emergency evacuation
  • Violence in the workplace

This guidance is advisory in nature and informational in content. It is not a standard or a regulation, and it neither creates new legal obligations nor alters existing obligations created by OSHA standards or the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act). Pursuant to the OSH Act, employers must comply with hazard-specific safety and health standards as issued and enforced either by OSHA or by an OSHA-approved State Plan. In addition, Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act, the General Duty Clause, requires employers to provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Employers can be cited for violating the General Duty Clause if there is a recognized hazard and they do not take reasonable steps to prevent or abate the hazard. However, failure to implement any recommendations in this guidance is not, in itself, a violation of the General Duty Clause. Citations can only be based on standards, regulations, or the General Duty Clause.

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