With the recent floods and tornadoes in the midwest, and hurricanes looming in the south, it’s wise to remember that storm and flood cleanup activities can be hazardous. Workers and volunteers involved with flood cleanup should be aware of the potential dangers involved, and take proper safety precautions. Work-related hazards that could be encountered include: electrical hazards,carbon monoxide, musculoskeletal hazards, heat stress, motor vehicles, hazardous materials, fire, confined spaces and falls. This information is to help employers and workers prepare in advance for anticipated response activities, and to prevent work-related injuries and illnesses in the field once rescue, recovery, and clean-up begin.
Disaster response teams are equipped with certified equipment that meets the needs to protect them from biological hazards, hazardous materials, waterborne and bloodborne pathogens. Volunteers may not have previous experience in using personal protective equipment; therefore, they should be trained properly in how to don this equipment, wear it, maintain it and know when and how to replace it.
Personal protective equipment that is absolutely necessary in these types of clean-ups are:
- Safety Glasses;
- Water resistant clothing;
- Gloves (latex or nitrile), and if necessary, to be used under other gloves when removing rubble or debris;
While making a rescue, responders should have gloves on to protect from bloodborne infections such as HIV, Hepatitis B, or Hepatitis C. In case of a sudden emergency, first responders are prepared with all the equipment they need and will train and help other responders and volunteers. Another suggestion is to have hi-visibility hardhats, gloves, and/or vests, in order for workers to be seen when working around heavy equipment that may be operating at the same time. In case of flooding, storms, and hurricanes, it takes everyone working together to handle rescue and clean-up operations.
We’ll be hoping for clear skies for the folks that have experienced this bad weather, and rain for the ones who need it – just not too much at one time!