Thursday, November 8, 2012

Emergency response and cleanup workers assisting in Hurricane Sandy

Protect emergency response and cleanup workers assisting in Hurricane Sandy recovery operations

As the disaster recovery response to Hurricane Sandy begins throughout much of the Eastern United States, OSHA's field staff is working diligently to provide assistance and support to those involved in the recovery effort. OSHA urges workers and members of the public engaged in cleanup activities to be aware of the hazards they might encounter and the necessary steps they should take to protect themselves.
OSHA maintains comprehensive websites on keeping disaster site workers safe during hurricane and storm cleanup and flood response operations. The hurricane page includes a response/recovery page features a link to OSHA’s Hurricane eMatrix, which features information on hazard exposures and risk assessments for hurricane response and recovery work. The flood preparedness and response page also includes a response/recovery page that provides useful details on the hazards to avoid when flooding has occurred. The sites also provide extensive resources on protecting recovery workers, including a Hurricane Sandy safety and health resource page from the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences. For more information, read OSHA's press release on the Hurricane Sandy response as follows:

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Region 1 News Release: 12-2174-BOS/BOS-2012-188
October 30, 2012
Contact: Andre J. Bowser
Phone: 617-565-2074
Email: bowser.andre.j@dol.gov
US Labor Department's OSHA urges recovery workers
and public to guard against hazards during Hurricane Sandy
BOSTON – As residents of New England, New York and New Jersey recover from the impact of Hurricane Sandy, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration urges workers and members of the public engaged in cleanup activities to be aware of the hazards they might encounter and the necessary steps they should take to protect themselves.

"Recovery work should not put you in the recovery room," said Marthe Kent, OSHA's New England regional administrator. "Storm recovery work involves a wide range of safety and health hazards, which can be minimized by knowledge, safe work practices and personal protective equipment. OSHA wants to make certain that no casualties result from cleanup operations."

Cleanup work can involve restoring electricity, communications, water and sewer services; demolition activities; removal of floodwater from structures; entry into flooded areas; cleaning up debris; tree trimming; structural, roadway, bridge, dam and levee repair; use of cranes, aerial lifts and other heavy equipment; hazardous waste operations; and emergency response activities.

Inherent hazards may include illness from exposure to contaminated water or food, exposure to the elements and heat stress, downed electrical wires, carbon monoxide and electrical hazards from portable generators, fall and "struck-by" hazards from tree trimming or working at heights, being caught in unprotected excavations or confined spaces, burns, lacerations, musculoskeletal injuries, being struck by traffic or heavy equipment, and drowning from being caught in moving water or while removing water from flooded structures.

Protective measures should involve evaluating the work area for all hazards; task-specific hazard exposure monitoring; utilizing engineering or work practice controls to mitigate hazards; using personal protective equipment; assuming all power lines are live; following proper hygiene procedures; using portable generators, saws, ladders, vehicles and other equipment correctly; and utilizing proper precautions for traffic work zones.

OSHA maintains a comprehensive website - http://www.osha.gov/dts/weather/hurricane/index.html - on keeping disaster site workers safe during hurricane and storm cleanup and recovery operations. It contains fact sheets, concise "quick cards," frequently asked questions, safety and health guides, and additional information in English and Spanish. Information on protecting oneself against heat stress while working outdoors is available in English at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/index.html and in Spanish at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/enespanol.html.

Additionally, a checklist of activities to be undertaken before, during and after a hurricane is available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency at http://www.ready.gov/hurricanes.

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.

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