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OSHA Urges Hurricane Recovery Workers to Protect Themselves

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US Labor Department’s OSHA urges hurricane recovery workers to protect themselves against hazards

BOSTON – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is urging workers and members of the public engaged in Hurricane Sandy cleanup and recovery efforts in New York, New Jersey and the New England states to be aware of the hazards they might encounter and the steps they should take to protect themselves.

“Storm recovery workers are working around the clock to clean up areas impacted by the storm,” said Robert Kulick, OSHA’s New York regional administrator. “We want to make sure that workers are aware of the hazards involved in cleanup work and take the necessary precautions to prevent serious injuries.”

OSHA field staff members are providing safety assistance, technical support, and information and training to those involved in the recovery efforts. For more information about unsafe work situations, workers and the general public can contact OSHA’s toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742).

For more information about protecting workers during Hurricane Sandy recovery, visit http://www.osha.gov/sandy/index.html. This comprehensive website offers fact sheets, concise “quick cards,” frequently asked questions, safety and health guides, and additional information in English and Spanish.

Cleanup work can involve restoring electricity, communications, and 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 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 include evaluating the work area for all hazards; assuming all power lines are live; using the right personal protective equipment (hard hats, shoes, reflective vests, safety glasses); conducting exposure monitoring where there are chemical hazards; following safe tree cutting procedures to prevent trees from falling on workers; and using fall protection and proper ladder safety when working at heights.

For additional information on grants, cleanup efforts and recovery resources, visit the Labor Department’s Hurricane Recovery Assistance Web page, which is being continuously updated at http://www.dol.gov/opa/hurricane-recovery.htm. Also, 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. For more information about the agency, visit http://www.osha.gov.