Dec. 30, 2015
US Labor Department's OSHA urges recovery workers and public to
safeguard themselves against hazards during flood and storm cleanup
CHICAGO - As residents of the Midwest deal with historic flooding and clean-up from the recent multi-day winter storm which has caused as many as 20 known deaths in Illinois and Missouri, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration urges employers, workers and members of the public engaged in cleanup activities to be aware of the hazards they can encounter and the necessary steps they should take to protect themselves.
With the Mississippi and other rivers in the region expected to crest in the coming days, OSHA is prepared to send resources to hard-hit areas to communicate with emergency responders in local communities, and distribute literature to assist in a safe clean-up of flood waters and damage from the recent multi-day winter storm that swamped the region.
"Recovery work should not put you in the recovery room," said Nancy Hauter, OSHA's acting regional administrator in Chicago. "Our main concern is the safety and health of the workers and volunteers conducting cleanup activities. Employers must provide training, personal protective equipment and implement safe work practices to protect employees from hazards such as electrocution, drowning, chemical exposures, struck-by, caught-in as well as other hazards. By utilizing protective measures employees and volunteers provide valuable assistance to those in need and return home safe and healthy to their families at the end of the day."
Cleanup work can involve restoring electricity, communications, water and sewer services; demolition work; removal of floodwater from structures; entry into flooded areas; cleaning up debris; 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 hazards may include illness from exposure to contaminated water or food; exposure or heat stress; downed electrical wires; carbon monoxide and electrical hazards from portable generators; fall and struck-by hazards from tree-trimming or working at heights; being caught in unprotected excavations or confined spaces; burns; lacerations; musculoskeletal injuries; being struck by traffic or heavy equipment; and drowning from being caught in moving water or while removing water from flooded structures.
Protective measures should involve evaluating the work area for all hazards; 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; using portable generators, saws, ladders, vehicles and other equipment correctly; and utilizing traffic work zones.
OSHA maintains a comprehensive website on keeping disaster site workers safe during cleanup 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 Chicago Regoinal Office at 312- 353-2220.
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Release Number: 15-2503-CHI
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The department's Reasonable Accommodation Resource Center converts departmental information and documents into alternative formats, which include Braille and large print. For alternative format requests, please contact the department at (202) 693-7828 (voice) or (800) 877-8339 (federal relay).