OSHA Warns of Flood Cleanup Hazards

Storm and hurricane cleanup work may involve hazards related to restoring electricity, communications, and water and sewer services; and there are potential hazards in demolition activity; debris cleanup; tree trimming; structural, road, and bridge repair; hazardous waste operations; and emergency response activities.

OSHA's Region 4, which is based in Atlanta, issued a release Oct. 6 warning South Carolina emergency workers, employers, and the general public about potential hazards they may encounter as a result of the flooding caused by the passage of Hurricane Joaquin offshore this week, as well as necessary steps to stay safe. "Recovery work should not put you in the hospital emergency room," said Regional Administrator Kurt Petermeyer. "A range of safety and health hazards exist following storms. You may minimize these dangers with knowledge, safe work practices and personal protective equipment. OSHA wants to make certain that all working men and women, including volunteers, return home at the end of the workday."

Storm and hurricane cleanup work may involve hazards related to restoring electricity, communications, and water and sewer services; and there are potential hazards in demolition activity; debris cleanup; tree trimming; structural, road, and bridge repair; hazardous waste operations; and emergency response activities.

"In addition, areas affected by flooding have unique cleanup challenges, including dam and levee repair, removal of floodwater from structures, and repairing downed electrical wires in standing water. Workers and residents taking defensive action to protect structures or evacuate severely impacted areas may encounter hazards, such as rapidly rising streams and moving water. OSHA has many resources on flood preparedness and response detailing how to stay safe during floods and subsequent cleanup," according to the release, which said only workers with the proper training, equipment, and experience should conduct cleanup activities.

It lists these protective measures:

  • Evaluate the work area for hazards.
  • Employ engineering or work practice controls to mitigate hazards.
  • Use personal protective equipment.
  • Assume all power lines are live.
  • Use portable generators, saws, ladders, vehicles, and other equipment properly.
  • Heed safety precautions for traffic work zones.

Those involved in recovery efforts can call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA or visit the agency's website to reach local representatives who can provide on-site assistance. The South Carolina OSHA Office can be reached at 803-896-7665.

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