Avoiding Hazards During Storm Cleanup

Avoiding Hazards During Storm Cleanup

Workers need to take extra steps to mitigate hazards when cleaning up after a storm.

Severe weather and thunderstorms can happen at any time of the year and can cause degrees of disaster. Some places are left with little cleanup required to return to normal. Other neighborhoods, however, require more and need help from workers. After a storm, when waters may be high and electrical wires down, knowing how to keep these workers safe is of the utmost importance.

Workers in storm cleanup can face many types of hazards, including falls and electrical. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in 2019, slips, trips and falls made up 37.9 percent of construction fatalities and 32 percent of nonfatal injuries. In 2020, 126 workers died from exposure to electricity, according to the BLS.

To prevent incidents like these from happening, it’s important to understand how to help workers avoid hazards when cleaning up from a storm. In a recent press release, OSHA provides many measures that employers and workers should include:

  • “Evaluating work areas for hazards.
  • Using engineering or work practice controls to minimize hazards.
  • Wearing proper clothing and use personal protective equipment.
  • Assuming all power lines are live.
  • Using portable generators, saws, ladders, vehicles and other equipment properly.
  • Following safety precautions in traffic work zones.
  • Using fall protection when working at heights over 6 feet.
  • Proper use of portable generators, saws, ladders, vehicles and other equipment such as front-end loaders and skid steers.”

"The Occupational Safety and Health Administration reminds workers and employers to pause and evaluate hazards, safety procedures and the need for appropriate personal protective equipment during response and recovery operations," said OSHA Area Director Sheila Stanley in Sioux Falls in the press release. "Hazards can be minimized with safe work practices, training and proper planning."

OSHA offers multiple resources to assist employers and workers in staying safe during storm cleanup, including web pages and fact sheets.

About the Author

Alex Saurman is a former Content Editor for Occupational Health & Safety,who has since joined OH&S’s client services team. She continues to work closely with OH&S’s editorial team and contributes to the magazine.

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