As Hurricane Sandy crashed against the East Coast of the U.S. last week, the storm left devastation in her wake, bringing recovery workers from out-of-state to the storm-ravaged areas of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York. Those who are involved in the cleanup efforts need to be aware of the safety and health hazards connected with their acts of good will.
Much of the infrastructure of the areas affected by the storm has been damaged, including electrical and sewer systems. Exposure to electricity can be a serious hazard to workers, especially those who are not accustomed to this type of work. Contaminated food and water may not be chief concerns for many workers on a daily basis, but in a disaster area it is crucial to remain vigilant against this potential hazard. "Struck-by" hazards are also prevalent after storms, both from natural hazards such as tree limbs and from uses of cranes and other elevated equipment.
OSHA is urging workers and volunteers in the cleanup effort to take protective measures in evaluating the work area, being cautious in regards to heat stress and other stamina elements, wearing personal protection equipment, and assuming that all power lines are live, even if the power is out in that area -- this type of hyper-cautiousness can help to prevent serious accidents from occurring.
OSHA has a website dedicated to keeping hurricane disaster site area workers safe, both during the storm and in the recovery efforts in the aftermath, including fact sheets and frequently asked questions, which is available here.
Source: OSHA, "US Labor Department's OSHA urges recovery workers and public to guard against hazards during Hurricane Sandy," Oct. 30, 2012