In the rush to pick the pieces left in the wake of a devastating storm, it’s important to remember that safety is of the utmost importance.
In the wake of the widespread destruction wrought by Superstorm Sandy, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is advising cleanup and recovery teams to be aware of the dangers they will encounter performing their jobs.
Robert Kulick, OSHA New York regional administrator, explained in a recent media release that the U.S. work site safety watchdog is making sure that everyone is well aware of the dangers of post-hurricane cleanup and recovery efforts. He advised that all workers take the necessary steps to protect themselves.
Cleanup work underway in New England, New Jersey, and hard-hit New York, among other regions, involves restoring power, telecommunications, and water and sewer services. Other post-storm activity includes emergency response, demolition, floodwater draining, cleaning up debris, tree cutting and trimming, and repair of roadways, bridges, dams and levees and other structures.
These activities carry necessary risks and are usually associated with dangers from downed power lines, exposed live electrical wires, hazardous gas (usually carbon monoxide) and chemical leaks, tree trimming, working at heights, unprotected excavations, confined spaces, moving water and flooded structures.
OSHA suggests managers and workers take protective measures at all times. These include scoping the work area for all hazards; using the correct personal protective equipment (hard hats, safety glasses, proper shoes, reflective vests); assuming all electrical lines are live; conducting exposure monitoring for chemical leaks and spills; employing only proper tree-cutting procedures; using fall protection protocols; and exercising proper ladder safety.
OSHA reassures the cleanup and recovery teams that its field staff members are always ready to extend safety assistance, information, training, and technical support now and even after clean-up efforts are completed. OSHA says that employers, workers and the public can contact the agency at its toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) for additional information on ensuring safe work situations.
Are you involved in cleanup in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy? If so, you can find information on ensuring a safe workspace at OSHA’s website. The website has information resources such as frequently asked questions, safety and health guides, fact sheets, “quick cards,” and additional information in English and Spanish. The website complements the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s own storm-info website, where a checklist of to-dos before, during, and after a hurricane can be accessed.
The Labor Department has information on cleanup efforts, recovery resources and grants available at its Hurricane Recovery Assistance website.