According to weather.com, the United States was impacted by six major weather disasters such as severe thunderstorms and winter storms during the first half of 2018. These disasters have cost the country around 6 billion dollars in total. However, companies have their own share of repercussions to deal with when a severe weather disaster hits their region.
After a weather disaster, companies and their employees are faced with a range of safety and health hazards, but risk can be minimized with knowledge and safe work practices. Our OSHA lawyers are here to share some important preventative measures that companies should take after a weather disaster hits their area.
Dispatch Qualified Crews
Weather disaster cleanup and recovery can be dangerous. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) urges employers to take precautions when addressing hazards resulting from storm debris, flooding, power loss, and fallen trees. Your employees should be trained to handle any hazards pertaining to these disasters, including storm cleanup. Employees with the proper training and experience should conduct these activities.
During recovery, your employees can potentially face the following types of hazards:
- Slips and falls
- Falls from heights
- Falling and flying objects
- Sharp objects
- Hazardous driving conditions
- Electrical hazards from downed power lines or downed objects
- Burns from fires caused by energized line contact or equipment failure
- Exhaustion from working extended shifts
- Heat and dehydration
Preventative Measures to Combat Hazards
There are several protective measures employers can take to mitigate hazards when conducting disaster recovery and cleanup.
- Evaluate the area and take steps to reduce or eliminate exposure to a hazard. For instance, this can be done by providing ventilation for confined spaces or placing barriers around the swing radius of rotating equipment.
- Assess the stability of structures and walking surfaces and consider the contaminants associated with disaster cleanup.
- Determine if there has been a release of unknown chemicals and whether or not permits are required for entry into confined spaces.
- Provide proper fall protection for elevated surfaces and use all equipment such as ladders, chainsaws, and generators properly.
- Provide specialty personal protective equipment such as eye and face protection, respiratory protection, high-visibility apparel, etc.
- Employers should ask workers about how they perform the task/operation in order to obtain useful information about the equipment and materials used and the conditions under which the task/operation is performed.
- Assume all power lines are live and either repair or remove electrical power lines before starting cleanup work.
If you would like to speak with an OSHA lawyer 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.