Safety Tips to Keep in Mind During Hurricane Cleanup and Recovery

We have been watching the anguish and destruction caused by Hurricane Harvey with great concern, as many individuals, including our employees, agents, policyholders and injured workers, have been impacted. In response, we are collectively and individually contributing to the relief efforts in order to help those impacted by this catastrophe. As an organization, we’re committed to helping those affected as they navigate the current weather conditions and begin rebuilding their communities.

Safety Tips for Disaster Cleanup and Recovery

The remnants of Hurricane Harvey continue to bring heavy rains that have caused catastrophic flooding in Houston and the Gulf Coast.

Once the rains subside, the cleanup and recovery will begin. For those involved in cleanup activities or those working in businesses impacted by the flooding rains, it’s important that safety measures be followed since hazards may be present and could result in serious injury or death. A full list of OSHA’s hazards and protective measures can be found here, but here are a few brief safety tips to keep in mind:

Contaminated Floodwaters

  • Assume all floodwater is contaminated unless proven otherwise.
  • Ventilate enclosed spaces with fresh air.
  • Allow only trained workers with the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) to clean up toxic chemicals, other hazardous waste, mold, and asbestos.
  • Use waterproof boots, latex or rubber gloves and other protective equipment. Consider using special chemical-resistant clothing, protective goggles, and a disposable respirator.
  • Keep an adequate supply of clean water available for drinking and washing.
  • Dangerous wildlife, such as snakes and alligators, may be present in floodwaters. DO NOT approach or feed animals; contact the Parks & Wildlife Department.

Downed Power Lines

  • Assume all power lines are live or energized unless proven otherwise.
  • Establish and clearly mark a danger zone around downed lines.
  • Stay at least 10 feet from all downed lines.
  • Allow only trained and equipped workers to repair electrical lines.

Debris Removal

  • Discard water-damaged and visibly contaminated materials.
  • Establish and clearly mark a danger zone around debris and where tree debris may fall.
  • Allow only trained workers with proper PPE such as work gloves, a hard hat, work boots, hearing protection, and eye/face protection to clean up debris.
  • Use mechanical equipment to lift heavy objects.
  • Up-to-date with tetanus vaccination.

Slips, Trips, & Falls

  • Use safety procedures to prevent aerial lift tip-overs.
  • Utilize fall protection.
  • Use proper ladder safety.
  • Be aware of wet or slippery surfaces, obstacles, or uneven surfaces.

Texas-Specific Workers’ Compensation Resources

For guidance on work comp issues in relation to Hurricane Harvey and flooding in Texas, the Division of Workers’ Compensation in Texas has issued a bulletin and launched a resource page with helpful information for injured employees, carriers and health providers impacted by the storm.

More Online Resources

For more tips and information, visit Accident Fund’s Severe Weather Safety page or click one of the links below:

How to Help Harvey Relief Efforts

As an enterprise, we are supporting the American Red Cross’s Hurricane Harvey relief efforts. You can make a contribution here.