KANSAS CITY, MO – Amid heavy rain and widespread flooding in southwestern Missouri, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration urges workers and the public at large to avoid hazards they may encounter and learn how to protect themselves as they begin clean-up activities.

“Workers and volunteers may be exposed to dangers such as drowning, electrocution, chemical exposures, struck-by, caught-in objects and other hazards, including exposure to the coronavirus,” said OSHA Area Director Karena Lorek in Kansas City, Missouri. “With rain in the forecast in the week ahead, workers and residents should be on alert to protect themselves from flash floods as rivers are already swollen.”

Clean-up work may involve restoring electricity, communications, water and sewer services; completing demolition; entering flooded areas and removing floodwater from structures; removing debris; trimming trees; repairing structures, roadways and bridges; using cranes, aerial lifts and other heavy equipment; responding to emergencies and working amid hazardous waste; and repairing dams and levees. These kinds of activities present specific hazards, including the following:

  • Illness from exposure to contaminated water or food.
  • Risk of excessive exposure or heat stress.
  • Electrocution dangers related to downed electrical wires.
  • Carbon monoxide and electrical hazards associated with the use of portable generators.
  • Fall and struck-by hazards involved in tree-trimming or working at heights.
  • Being caught in unprotected excavations or confined spaces.
  • Burns, lacerations and musculoskeletal injuries.
  • Being struck by traffic or heavy equipment while working.
  • Risk of drowning in surges of moving water during clean-up.

Protective measures should involve:

  • Evaluating the work area for all hazards.
  • Providing training.
  • Monitoring task-specific hazard exposure.
  • Utilizing engineering or work practice controls to mitigate hazards.
  • Using personal protective equipment.
  • Assuming all power lines are live.
  • Correctly using portable generators, saws, ladders, vehicles and other equipment.
  • Utilizing traffic work zones.
  • ­Following proper hygiene procedures. Always cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze or use the inside of your elbow and do not spit. Monitor your health daily and be alert for coronavirus symptoms.
  • Use face coverings made of at least two layers of a tightly woven breathable fabric, such as cotton; they should not have exhalation valves or vents.

OSHA maintains a comprehensive website on keeping disaster site workers safe during clean-up and recovery operations. It contains fact sheets, concise “quick cards,” frequently asked questions, safety and health guides and information, public service announcements in English and Spanish, and links to information from other sources.

In March 2021, OSHA launched a national emphasis program to combat work-related coronavirus exposures. Read about feasible and acceptable means of abatement for this hazard and OSHA’s COVID-19 information and resources.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA’s role is to ensure these conditions for America’s workers by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. Learn more about OSHA.

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