ASSE Offers Post-Storm Cleanup Tips for Businesses

Provide training in the proper selection and use of PPE for your employees and yourself such as eyewear, gloves, boots, and dust masks/respirators for cleaning and other operations.

In light of the recent storms and tornado strikes that have hit several U.S. states, the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) is offering safety tips for workplaces and communities to help during cleanup operations and to prepare future contingency situations. After a disaster, ASSE recommends that all businesses do a hazard evaluation and assessment that include the following:

Air Quality Assessment – make sure the atmosphere in the workplace environment is tested for asbestos and other chemical/toxic agents. Air quality is an issue businesses should pay careful attention to when restarting business operations.

Check Mainframes – if your facility has mainframe computer applications, check lines and cabling for chiller systems to avoid chemical leak-out.

Cleanup Safety – implement your cleanup and business resumption processes in a safe and healthful manner. Provide training in the proper selection and use of PPE for your employees and yourself such as eyewear, gloves, boots, and dust masks/respirators for cleaning and other operations.

Electrical Safety – have checks made of electrical systems, computer cables, and telecommunications equipment to ensure that they are still safe and there is no danger of exposure to electricity. Wiring inspections should be conducted from the outside in to ensure that all wiring and connections are not in danger of shorting out due to water damage from rain or fire-fighting efforts.

Emergency Evacuation Planning – ensure that there is a clear path of egress for the emergency evacuation of employees, that fire extinguishers are still operable, and that checks for damage and serviceability are made to see if any fire extinguisher facilities were used during the disaster. If damage is found, they should be replaced immediately.

Emergency Procedures – create a new emergency plan and distribute it to employees as soon as they return to work. In case of emergency, designate a place for employees to gather once out of the building or establish a phone number they should call following the emergency so that all can be accounted for. Frequently update the emergency contact list of names and phone numbers.

Health/Sanitation Issues – the general facility sanitation systems with the facility should be inspected and tested to guard against potential employee exposure to toxic agents. Food sanitation should also be addressed. Any unused foodstuffs should be discarded. If the workspace has a kitchen, inspect oven hoods and other ventilation devices to ensure they are not clogged and are working efficiently.

Machine Inspections – inspect the condition of drain, fill, plumbing, and hydraulic lines on processes and machines. Have plumbing lines evaluated and tested in order to detect any hazardous gases.

Power Checks – if there is no access to electricity on the site, do not use fueled generators or heaters indoors. Ensure that there are no gas or sewer leaks in your facility. You will need to check with your local utilities for information regarding power, gas, water, and sewer usage.

Protection Equipment – for fire and smoke alarms it is important to ensure that these have been cleaned and tested before allowing occupancy of the building. If such systems are wired into other systems ensure that they are still compatible and work in an efficient and effective manner. Thorough inspection of fire-fighting systems, such as sprinkler and chemical equipment functions, is a must.

Solid/Hazardous Waste Removal – broken glass, debris, or other materials with sharp edges should be safely gathered and disposed of immediately. Ensure that such materials can be disposed of before collection to avoid creating even bigger hazards for both employees and the public. Solid waste disposal will be an issue, especially if hazardous waste is involved. Evaluate waste disposal issues prior to cleanup operations.

Surfaces – make sure flooring surfaces are acceptable and free from possible slips, trips, and falls.

Ventilation – have vents checked to ensure that water heaters and gas furnaces are clear and operable. Dust and debris can stop or impede airflow decreasing its quality and healthfulness. Safely start up heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, which includes prior inspection of lines before energizing and pressurizing of the systems. Test your systems now after inspection or have a qualified specialist do so. Blow cold air through HVAC systems first, as opposed to warm air, as it will help prevent mold growth in duct systems.

Doing a Risk Assessment – this can range from self-assessment to an extensive engineering study. The specific industry, size, and scope of your company determine your organization’s risk assessment needs. Know what kinds of emergencies might affect your company. Find out which natural disasters are most common in the areas where you operate at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/. Learn what to do during a biological, chemical, explosive, nuclear or radiological attack at http://www.ready.gov.

Doing Emergency Planning Now – start planning to improve the likelihood that your company will survive and recover. Carefully assess how your company functions, both internally and externally, to determine which staff, materials, procedures, and equipment are absolutely necessary to keep the business operating; identify operations critical to survival and recovery; include emergency payroll, expedited financial decision-making and accounting systems to track and document costs in the event of a disaster; and establish procedures for succession of management.

Planning – plan what you will do if your building, plant, or store is not accessible and develop a continuity of operations plan that includes all facets of your business. For example, determine if you can run the business from a different location or from your home and develop relationships with other companies to use their facilities in case a disaster makes your location unusable.

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