October 8, 2016
ATLANTA – Florida’s emergency workers, employers and the public at-large face potentially serious hazards as they begin to recover from Hurricane Matthew, and the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is urging vigilance during the cleanup.
“Recovery work should not send you to the hospital emergency room,” said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA’s regional administrator for the Southeast. “A range of safety and health hazards exist following storms. You can minimize these dangers with knowledge, safe work practices and personal protective equipment. OSHA wants all working men and women – including volunteers – to stay safe once the storm has passed.”
Storm and tornado cleanup may involve hazards related to restoring electricity, communications, and water and sewer services. Demolition activities such as debris cleanup; tree trimming; and structural, roadway and bridge repair; hazardous waste operations and emergency response activities present their own unique hazards. OSHA’s website provides guidance to keep disaster-site workers safe in tornado and storm cleanup and recovery operations.
Flooded areas 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. Resources on flood preparedness and response also are available on OSHA’s website.
Only properly trained and adequately equipped workers should conduct cleanup activities.
Protective measures for workers engaged in cleanup efforts include the following:
Evaluate all work areas for hazards.
Employ engineering or work practice controls to mitigate hazards.
Use personal protective equipment.
Assume all powerlines are live.
Use portable generators, saws, ladders, vehicles and other equipment properly.
Heed safety precautions for traffic work zones.
Individuals involved in recovery efforts may call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or visit the agency’s website to reach local representatives who can provide on-site assistance.
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 ensure 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.