Worker Safety After a Natural Disaster

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The landfall of Hurricane Harvey in Texas this weekend has several communities preparing for heavy rainfall, flooding and wind damage. Citizens are also preparing by gathering supplies or evacuating areas entirely. Preparing for and cleaning up after a natural disaster is also incredibly important for manufacturing firms due to equipment and chemicals that may have been compromised in the storm. How you clean up after a hurricane will go a long way towards getting your production back on schedule and protecting your workers in the process. Based of OSHA safety protocol, here are some things to keep in mind so you can protect workers when cleaning up after a hurricane.


  • Consult an OSHA representative and other professionals to determine what can/should be cleaned up by your workers
  • Conduct any additional training before permitting your workers to entire hazardous areas and begin cleanup

Chemical Cleanup

  • Ventilate all enclosed spaces before attempting cleanup
  • Assume any floodwater has been contaminated
  • Leave the cleanup to workers who’ve been properly trained to deal with hazardous chemicals and equipment
  • Use ventilation masks until you can confirm a space is safely breathable

Tree/Debris Removal

  • If clearing debris from a fallen power line, assume it is live and establish a 10ft parameter
  • Be sure to contact your energy company to ground all power lines near areas that will be cleared of debris
  • Assume fallen debris is heavier than it is, and compensate with a larger cleanup crew


  • Do not run portable generators inside an enclosed space
  • Make sure the work space of the generator is properly ventilated
  • Store spare fuel in a clean, dry, outdoor space
  • Utilized safety harnesses for all workers performing repairs or cleanup above the ground
  • Insist on high-visibility clothing, hard hats and full safety clothing at all times, even during the day and in areas free of debris

With proper planning and care, you can get your facility back in working order while practicing OSHA standards of safety for you and your workers. Should you need OSHA assistance after Hurricane Harvey has dissipated, they can be contacted as 1-800-321-OSHA.

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