U.S. Labor Department Urges Storm Recovery Workers, Citizens To Use Caution

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) logo graphic.
The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) logo graphic.

Atlanta, GA (WJBF) — The U.S. Department of Labor is urging emergency workers, employers, and the public to use caution while recovering from the impact of severe weather.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) officials are warning those involved in cleaning up to be aware of the hazards they may encounter and take necessary steps to stay safe.

“Recovery work should not put you in the hospital emergency room,” said Kurt Petermeyer, OSHA’s regional administrator in Atlanta. “A range of safety and health hazards exist following storms. You may minimize these dangers with knowledge, safe work practices and personal protective equipment. OSHA wants to make certain that all working men and women, including volunteers, return home at the end of the workday.”

Storm and tornado cleanup work may involve hazards related to restoring electricity, communications, and water and sewer services. Other hazards pertain to demolition activities; debris cleanup; tree trimming; and structural, roadway and bridge repair; hazardous waste operations; and emergency response activities. OSHA maintains a comprehensive website to keep disaster site workers safe during tornado and storm cleanup and recovery operations.

In addition, areas affected by flooding have unique cleanup challenges, including dam and levee repair, removal of floodwater from structures, and repairing downed electrical wires in standing water. Workers and residents taking defensive action to protect structures or evacuate severely impacted areas may encounter hazards, such as rapidly rising streams and moving water. OSHA has many resources on flood preparedness and response detailing how to stay safe during floods and subsequent cleanup.

Only workers provided with the proper training, equipment and experience should conduct cleanup activities.

Protective measures should include the following:

  • Evaluating the work area for hazards.
  • Employing engineering or work practice controls to mitigate hazards.
  • Using personal protective equipment.
  • Assuming all power lines are live.
  • Using portable generators, saws, ladders, vehicles and other equipment properly.
  • Heeding safety precautions for traffic work zones.

Individuals involved in recovery efforts may call OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or visit the agency’s website to reach local representatives who can provide on-site assistance.

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