June 3, 2015
OSHA urges employers, workers, homeowners
and others to protect themselves during flood cleanup
Safety and health of public is a priority
DALLAS – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration urges everyone engaged in cleanup after the recent floods in Texas - employers, workers and the public - to avoid potential hazards and take steps to protect themselves.
"People must be aware of possible hazards - from chemically contaminated water to unstable structures -created in the aftermath of the disaster," said John Hermanson, OSHA's regional administrator in Dallas. "Everyone involved in the cleanup needs personal protective equipment and proper training to prevent injury and illness. The safety and health of the public is a priority."
Before entering buildings or structures after a flood, an assessment of the potential hazards and exposure must be done. Using that information, an employer must ensure that workers, at a minimum, are provided with education on the hazards they face and how to protect themselves.
The nature of cleanups varies by location. While a flooded residential home may not present the obvious hazards that a commercial property with stored hazardous chemicals would, each situation has its own challenges. Homeowners should be aware that damaged structures may be at risk of collapse, and the onset of mold may have already begun.
Workplaces may have these same dangers, in addition to many other serious safety threats, including chemical exposure. Employers should evaluate chemical workplace hazards and create a chemical inventory, which is part of a workplace hazard communication program.
In either situation, homeowners and employers should request the assistance of a safety and health professional.
People involved in flood cleanup should take the following precautions:
- Wear a hard hat, safety glasses, reflective vest, gloves and steel-toed work boots.
- In wet environments, stay dry with waterproof gloves and boots.
- Breathe safely and use respiratory protection, especially where dust and mold exists.
- Avoid dangerous falls and use fall protection when working more than 6 feet off the ground.
- Protect your hearing. In loud and noisy environments, hearing protection is important.
- Work cleanly. Stop the spread of contaminants and disease with proper hygiene and sanitation.
- Wash your hands regularly. Where suitable facilities are absent, use hand sanitizer.
OSHA's Hazard Exposure and Risk Assessment Matrix provides information on tasks and operations associated with disaster response and recovery, and common and significant hazards that response and recovery workers might encounter. The matrix can help employers make decisions during risk assessment that will protect their employees working in hurricane-impacted areas.
The following organizations provide additional resources:
- OSHA Flood Response and Recovery Resources at http://www.osha.gov/dts/weather/flood/response.html.
- National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences Hurricane and Flood Response Resources at http://tools.niehs.nih.gov/wetp/index.cfm?id=2472.
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Emergency Response Resources at http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/emres/flood.html.
Release Number: 15-1114-DAL
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