Tips & Tricks/02.04.24

How to Minimize Risk in Floodwater Cleanup

The storm has past, the weather is clearing and the flood water is receding. That’s when the hazards emerge, as first responders and their teams enter the area. Fallen trees, downed power lines, flooded buildings and storm debris are some of the visible hazards during clean-up efforts after a hurricane or localized flooding. But there are many hidden flood risks!

As water damage cleanup begins in affected areas, workers and building occupants alike may unknowingly encounter hidden safety and health-compromising conditions, including contaminated water, polluted air, mold, contagious diseases, carbon monoxide, and insects. Being aware of each hazard allows individuals to protect themselves and their crews from dermal, inhalation, and respiratory exposure risk.

First responders need to warn their teams and minimize risks with training, safe work practices, and personal protective equipment (PPE).  Industry standards and guidelines as well as Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) Code of Federal Regulations (CFRs) provide solid guidance for personal protection and safety gear and practices.

Only first responders with proper training, equipment, and experience should conduct recovery and cleanup activities where water may be contaminated. OSHA recommends that proper measures be taken after a weather-related disaster in these six areas:

  1. Utilize proper PPE such as gloves, hard hats, hearing and foot protection, and eye protection, and ensure staff is trained in their proper use
  2. Evaluate all work areas for safety and health hazards
  3. Assess the stability of structures and walking surfaces
  4. Ensure proper fall protection for elevated surfaces
  5. Assume all power and gas lines are live
  6. Use portable generators, ladders, chainsaws, tools, and other equipment properly

Before even responding to a hurricane or flood disaster, it is important that all first responders consult a physician regarding required immunizations, such a Hepatitis A and B (note that some shots may require a three-step process) and tetanus.

For more flood water cleanup guidance, search our Tips & Tricks for "flood" or other topics of interest.


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