Worker Safety and Health in Hurricanes

The combination of a major East coast hurricane and the Labor Day holiday weekend has us thinking about the thousands of emergency workers who will be helping keep our basic infrastructure like roads, power supply and telecommunications systems up and running as Hurricane Earl blows through.

The Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) reports that many of the hazards occur to workers immediately after the storm has passed, such as during cleanup and utility restoration work. These activities are even more hazardous in areas of flooding, which are often caused by these storms.

According to the National Weather Service, about 70 percent of injuries during hurricanes and tornados result from vehicle accidents, and about 25 percent of injuries result from being caught out in the storm.

OSHA says some of the specific hazards associated with working in hurricanes or tornados include:

  • ï  ® Hazardous driving conditions due to slippery roadways
  • ï  ® Slips and falls due to slippery walkways
  • ï  ® Falling and flying objects such as tree limbs and utility poles
  • ï  ® Electrical hazards from downed power lines or downed objects in contact with power lines
  • ï  ® Falls from heights
  • ï  ® Burns from fires caused by energized line contact or equipment failure
  • ï  ® Exhaustion from working extended shifts
  • ï  ® Dehydration

Check out OSHA resources on disaster recovery hazards  as well as  emergency response resources from the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).

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