DALLAS – The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is urging response crews and residents in areas affected by recent storms that spawned tornadoes in north Texas and New Orleans to recognize and protect themselves from hazards created by flooding, power loss, structural damage, fallen trees and storm debris.

Response and recovery workers restoring electricity and communications, removing debris, repairing water damage, mending or replacing roofs and trimming trees will encounter many hazards and risks to personal safety. Storm recovery and cleanup work should only be done by individuals with proper training, equipment and experience.

After any disaster, those involved in response and recovery should:

Evaluate the work area for hazards.
Assess the stability of structures and walking surfaces.
Be sure to use fall protection when working on elevated surfaces.
Assume all power lines are live.
Always keep portable generators outside.
Never attach a generator directly to a structure’s electrical system until a qualified electrician has installed a transfer switch for the generator.
Operate chainsaws, ladders and other equipment properly.
Use personal protective equipment, such as gloves, hard hats and hearing protection, as well as safeguards for feet and eyes.
Have plenty of drinking water available, use sunscreen and take frequent rest breaks in shaded areas. Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

“Employers, workers, homeowners or any other people involved in cleanup and recovery activities must assess the potential for hazardous conditions and exposures before beginning work,” said OSHA Regional Administrator Eric Harbin in Dallas. “Employers must follow safe work practices, provide training on worksite hazards and ensure the use of appropriate personal protective equipment to reduce the risk of injuries.”

OSHA maintains a comprehensive webpage on hurricane preparedness and response with safety tips to help employers and workers, including an alert on keeping workers safe during flood cleanup. Individuals involved in response and recovery efforts may call OSHA at 800-321-OSHA (6742).    

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. Learn more about OSHA.

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