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Disaster Preparedness

How to Clean Up After a Flood

After a flood, listen to local news updates for word that it’s safe to return to work. When you are able to get back on the ground, be sure to take the precautions necessary to ensure your safety and the safety of your team.  

Identify any hazards at your worksite.  

These are a few of the risks or hazards you may run into after a flood, according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA).

  • Electrical dangers, like downed power lines
  • High heat
  • Contaminated flood water
  • Loud noise from equipment
  • Falls or cuts 

See a full list of hazards, and how to respond to and evaluate them, on OSHA’s website. 

Lower hazard risks.

  • Get rid of the problem wherever possible. For example, you should remove a fallen power line before working on anything else in the area.
  • Get ahead of equipment-related injuries: You can do this by guarding the
    “pinch points” on a piece of heavy equipment, or making sure the cab is temperature-controlled.
  • Make sure your team is well-rested: Decrease the chances they’ll make a mistake on the job by giving them frequent breaks and making sure they’re getting the rest they need. 
  • Work in the daylight. This is especially true for high-risk or unfamiliar tasks. 
  • Keep the workspace clean. Decontaminate equipment or personnel if they come into contact with contaminated floodwater or chemicals. 
  • Use the right PPE. Use personal protective equipment that’s appropriate for the task your team is working on. See more about how to select and use PPE here. 

Make sure your team practices basic sanitation on the job. 

You can reduce the risk of illness or injury by employing basic safety and sanitation practices. These include:

  • Establishing an evacuation route, in case it’s needed. 
  • Drinking safe water.
  • Washing hands before eating, drinking, smoking, and after using the restroom. Use hand sanitizer if potable water isn’t available.
  • Avoiding food or drink that’s exposed to floodwaters.
  • Eating or drinking in areas free from debris, floodwater or sludge.
  • Using bug repellent. 
  • Promptly dealing with cuts and scrapes. 

Make sure your team brings the right personal gear. 

In addition to PPE, employees should have gear that’s appropriate for the environment. This could include: 

  • Changes of clothing that fit the weather, location and assignment
  • Toiletries
  • A flashlight with spare batteries
  • Sunscreen
  • A hat for sun and rain
  • Extra pairs of glasses or contacts, as well as sunglasses.

This checklist is not exhaustive. Familiarize yourself with OSHA standards for flood response work, as well as National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) guidelines, to make sure that you and your employees minimize risk and stay safe during your response work.

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