Best Practices for Hurricane Response and Recovery Operations
As of the time of this writing, the National Hurricane Center is tracking at least five disturbances in the Atlantic and Caribbean, including Tropical Depression Omar and Tropical Storm Nana. This is coming not even a few weeks after Hurricane Laura devastated parts of Louisiana and Texas as the tenth hurricane on record to make landfall in the continental United States with winds of 150 miles per hour or higher. Along with a number of fatalities, communities even 35 miles from the coast have been littered with debris, broken trees, bent lamp posts, and street signs torn up from the ground. Some residents won’t have power for weeks, if not months.
Due to the hazards created by flooding, power loss, structural damage, and more, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a news release advising workers to use the appropriate equipment and implement safe work practices to reduce the risk of injury during storm cleanup operations. In this brief article, we’ll review OSHA’s best practices and tips to guard your business against a wide range of safety and health hazards following storms. For a legal advocate who can aid your business in achieving workplace safety and OSHA compliance, no matter the circumstance, consult an experienced Alabama OSHA lawyer from Cotney Attorneys & Consultants.
Evaluate the Work Area for Hazards Prior to Beginning Work
Recovery efforts can range from restoring electricity to homes and removing debris from rooftops to complete roof replacements. The most important step to take before performing any response and recovery work is to evaluate your work site for any safety or health hazards. These hazards include electrocution, noise, high temperatures, hazardous substances, infectious materials, and fall hazards. OSHA’s recommendations for handling each of these hazards commonly encountered during hurricane response and recovery operations are as follows:
- Downed Power Lines: It’s crucial to assume that all electrical lines are energized or live until proven otherwise. Before beginning any work, de-energize and ground circuits you may come into contact with. Use locks and/or tags to prevent these same circuits from becoming re-energized.
- Structural Instability: Fall hazards go hand in hand with structural instability. Prior to starting work, avoid these hazards by limiting access, setting up controlled access zones, utilizing fall protection, and installing temporary support systems.
- Hazardous Chemicals: If you notice hazardous chemical containers or identify building materials that may contain lead or asbestos, it’s important to inspect the building, have a certified individual evaluate the condition of the material, or remove the hazardous chemical before beginning work in the area.
Select the Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment
The use of personal protective equipment (PPE) is a must in response and recovery work in hurricane-impacted areas due to the wide variety of hazards, such as flying objects, liquid splash, chemicals, and more. Ultimately, it’s the employer’s responsibility to assess the hazards and determine the appropriate protection for a given situation. General PPE recommended for any response or recovery tasks includes protective footwear, safety glasses, hard hats, appropriate clothing, and protective gloves.
All of these protective equipment will vary depending on the hazard in place. For example, vibration hazards will call for vibration-dampening gloves, while the handling of debris requires heavy-duty leather work gloves. If you have any questions about keeping your workers safe during response and recovery efforts, don’t hesitate to reach out to a highly-experienced OSHA attorney familiar with all of the OSHA regulations and requirements.
If you would like to speak with an OSHA attorney, please contact us today.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.