Natural disasters – tornadoes, hurricanes, wildfires – can create physical hazards during and after the event. Those doing clean up at your place of business should be aware of the dangers these events leave behind and take proper safety precautions.
Physical, chemical and biological hazards may be present that can lead to work-related hazards including:
- Hazardous driving conditions – slippery and/or blocked roads
- Electrical hazards from downed power lines
- Carbon monoxide exposures
- Motor vehicle and large machinery accidents
- Hazardous materials
- Fires and burns
- Confined spaces
- Slips and falls
- Physical hazards from falling or flying debris such as tree limbs and utility poles
- Sharp objects such as nails and broken glass
- Heat and dehydration
- Flooding and/or high water conditions
You’ll find common post-disaster hazards and their controls in this PDF.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
Emergency response and recovery workers can be exposed to these hazards through a variety of means, inhalation, dermal contact, ingestion, contact through mucous membranes. To protect themselves, they must wear protective equipment such as respirators, eye protection, hearing protection and protective clothing (i.e., gas masks, gloves, overalls, boots, goggles).
If working in confined spaces, ensure that at least one person remains outside the space to monitor operations and assist in an evacuation, if necessary. Reliable communications and rescue equipment, along with functioning alarm systems, are imperative.
Watch for heavy equipment operation, including the swing radius for cranes and other equipment with arms. Each piece of heavy equipment should have a spotter when operating near emergency responders and skilled support workers.
Tips for PPE
- Use appropriate hand protection (i.e., latex and nitrile gloves), especially when handling potentially infectious materials. A combination of a cut-proof inner layer glove and a latex or similar outer layer is preferable.
- Footwear should protect against sharp debris.
- Use respiratory protection to combat the effects from breathing dust and hazardous atmospheres which might contain things such as freon, carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, asbestos, carbon dioxide, ammonia, and welding gases.
- Hearing protection is important, particularly around saws, earth-moving equipment and hydraulic tools.
- Protective eyewear (safety glasses with side shields, at a minimum), is necessary personal protective equipment.
- Use fall protection equipment, with lifelines tied off to suitable anchorage points (e.g., bucket trucks), whenever possible.