Emergency Preparedness and Response, Enforcement and Inspection, Injuries and Illness, Personnel Safety

OSHA Warns Florida Workers, Residents of Flood Cleanup Hazards

On June 14, OSHA cautioned emergency responders, recovery workers, and residents in areas of Florida recently flooded by intense rainfall to exercise caution when facing the hazards of a storm’s aftermath.

Once storms subside, workers are needed to restore electricity, communications, water, and sewer services. These activities may involve removing standing floodwater from structures, performing demolition work, clearing debris, identifying and removing hazardous waste, and other response work, according to OSHA.

The agency urged recovery and cleanup workers to avoid, when possible, entering areas where there’s standing water, especially in locations where there may be openings or depressions below the water surface that can pose a risk of serious injury or drowning.

Recovery and cleanup work involves a wide range of hazards, according to the agency, such as carbon monoxide, electrocution risks associated with water-impacted electrical circuits and components, extreme heat, fall hazards related to debris removal or working at heights, and handling contaminated or otherwise unsafe materials and debris.

The agency encouraged employers and supervisors to take protective measures that include evaluating the work area for potential hazards before beginning any recovery work, ensuring workers are appropriately trained to safely perform assigned tasks, and verifying hazards are corrected and effectively controlled.

“Flood recovery work presents numerous safety and health hazards—amid power loss, and water accumulation and saturation of building materials and electrical components—all of which can be minimized by being knowledgeable, following safe work practices and using personal protective equipment for debris removal,” Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA’s Southeast regional administrator, said in a statement.

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