5 tips to recover safely from disasters

After Hurricane Harvey, employers face a variety of hazards in cleaning up facilities and worksites, including fall and lifting hazards, rodents, snakes and insects, electrocutions, noise, cut/laceration hazards; high ambient temperatures; hazardous substances; or infectious materials. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides guidance to help employers keep their workers safe during cleanup and recovery operations after hurricanes and floods. Think about how you will protect workers and avoid other dangers with these prevention tips.

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1  Determine the damage

Inspect all structures, surfaces, trenches, roadways, or other work areas to verify they are stable before allowing employees to enter. Have a registered professional engineer or architect certify that buildings are safe. Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report property damage.

2  Be careful around electricity

Report downed power lines, frayed electric wires, or gas leaks to utility providers. Assume all electrical lines are energized, especially if there has been a power outage and you don’t know when the utility provider will restore power! Find locations where employees – or their power tools – could contact energized electric circuits. Turn off electrical systems, follow lockout/tagout procedures, and have a qualified electrician inspect equipment before resuming work.

3  Prevent cuts and lacerations

Use a wooden (not metal) pole to check flooded areas for pits or protruding objects. If employees cut themselves on sharp debris, provide first aid for minor cuts and scrapes and quickly seek medical attention if there are signs of infection. Cover cuts with bandages and wear waterproof gloves to prevent contact with contaminated water or body fluids. Wear chaps when using chainsaws.

4  Wear personal protective equipment

For all response or recovery tasks, OSHA recommends wearing approved foot, eye, head, and hand protection – including waterproof work boots, safety glasses with side shields, hard hats or helmets, heavy-duty leather gloves, and life vests (in deep water). To protect legs against snakebites, wear snake boots or gaiters. Use insect repellent containing DEET or picaridin to prevent insect bites.

5  Don't forget to sanitize

Clean clothing, tools, and equipment with soap and water after contact with contaminated floodwater or chemicals. If you can’t access clean water, use a solution of ¼ cup bleach and 1 gallon water – then allow materials to drain and air dry. For information about safely disposing of containers of toxic or unknown substances, contact the National Response Center at 1-800-424-8802. Visit the DWC website at www.txsafetyatwork.com for more information about hurricane recovery safety.

 

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Last updated: 09/01/2017

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