Displaced Rats Among 5 Dangers for Superstorm Sandy Cleanup Workers

November 6, 2012

Hurricane Sandy has affected millions of people and businesses and will result in billions of dollars in damage. According to insurance broker Lockton, workers and their companies helping with cleanup efforts need to be cautious about the many health and safety risks associated with the storm and the resulting debris.

A recent Lockton article, “Worker Safety: Health and Safety Risks During Superstorm Sandy Cleanup,” offers an overview of some of the most significant exposures which face workers.

“Floodwater is usually very contaminated. By the time it settles enough to allow people to walk through it, the water has picked up sewage, debris, dead animals, and dangerous objects,” wrote Annamarie Gibbs, senior vice president and manager of Risk Control Services for Lockton.

Some of the risks include:

  1. Displaced Rats: Workers should not reach into dark places without appropriate personal protective equipment, and make sure all their food supplies are isolated and contained.
  2. Use of Machinery: Machinery in a closed environment can create deadly levels of carbon monoxide if not exhausted to the atmosphere.
  3. Power and Gas Lines: Workers who accidentally come in direct contact with active lines may die as a result of circulatory or respiratory failure.
  4. Asbestos: When workers inhale asbestos fibers, the fibers remain lodged in their bodies and can cause severe and fatal diseases.
  5. Lack of Worker Hygiene: Workers should wash their hands and faces regularly. Clothing should be changed frequently and stored in plastic bags prior to washing.

Before sending workers into a cleanup site, Lockton advises that companies should consider these functions

  • Assessment and Planning: If workers are from outside the area, it is important they know the situation, culture, politics and the different groups and things that could cause danger, pre-plan security measures.
  • Communication: Communicate with workers regularly. Require them to keep a timeline and take photos as the work progresses.
  • Addressing Worker Needs: They may suffer a frightening incident and need comforting. In case of serious trauma, professional help may be needed.
  • Compliance with Safety Regulations: Personal protective equipment, training and the right equipment will be crucial.

The complete Lockton paper on Sandy cleanup safety is available online.

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