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Cleanup Hazards
Cleanup work of any kind is hazardous, but flood conditions make it even more
so. Following the procedures listed below will help to keep you safe and healthy
while cleaning up after natural disasters that involve flooding.

Health Tips box); if no support is available, the trench

• Take frequent rest breaks when lifting must be sloped at no less than a 1:1 (45°)
heavy, water-laden objects. Avoid overex- angle for cohesive soil and angular gravel
ertion and practice good lifting tech- and a 11/2:1 (34°) angle for granular soils
niques. To help prevent injury, use teams including gravel, sand, and loamy sand or
of two or more to move bulky objects; submerged soil or soil from which water
avoid lifting any materials that weigh is freely seeping.
more than 50 pounds per person, and use • Establish a plan for contacting medical
proper automated lifting assistance personnel in the event of an emergency.
devices if practical. • Report any obvious hazards (downed
• When working in hot environments, have power lines, frayed electric wires, gas
plenty of drinking water available, use leaks or snakes) to appropriate authorities.
sunscreen, and take frequent rest breaks. • Use fuel-powered generators outdoors. Do
Wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. not bring them indoors, as they may pose
• Be sure that a first aid kit is available to a carbon monoxide (CO) hazard.
disinfect any cuts or abrasions. Protect • Use life-vests when engaged in activities
open cuts and abrasions with waterproof that could result in deep water exposure.
gloves or dressings. • Use extreme caution when handling con-
• Wash your hands often during the day, tainers holding unknown substances or
especially before eating, drinking, or known toxic substances (for example,
applying cosmetics. floating containers of household or indus-
trial chemicals). Contact the EPA
General Precautions (Environmental Protection Agency) for
• Use a wooden stick or pole to check flood- information on disposal at the National
ed areas for pits, holes, and protruding Response Center (800) 424-8802.
objects before entering. • Do NOT use improvised surfaces (e.g.,
• Ensure that all ladders and scaffolds are refrigerator racks) for cooking food or for
properly secured prior to use. boiling water to avoid exposure to heavy
• Conduct a preliminary worksite inspection metals.
to verify stability before entering a flood-
ed or formerly flooded building or before Clothing and Personal Protective
operating vehicles over roadways or sur- Equipment
faces. Don’t work in or around any flood- • Always wear watertight boots with a steel
damaged building until it has been exam- toe and insole, gloves, long pants, and
ined and certified as safe for work by a safety glasses during cleanup operations;
registered professional engineer or archi- sneakers should NOT be worn because
tect. they will not prevent punctures, bites or
• Washouts, trenches, excavations, and gul- crush injuries. Wear a hardhat if there is
lies must be supported or their stability any danger of falling debris.
verified prior to worker entry. All trenches • Wear a NIOSH-approved dust respirator if
should be supported (e.g., with a trench working with moldy building materials or
vegetable matter (hay, stored grain, or prior to starting the generator. This will
compost). prevent inadvertent energization of power
• When handling bleach or other chemicals, lines from backfeed electrical energy from
follow the directions on the package; wear generators and help protect utility line
eye, hand, and face protection as appro- workers from possible electrocution.
priate; and have plenty of clean water • Be aware that de-energized power lines
available for eyewash and other first aid may become energized by a secondary
treatments. power source such as a portable backup
Electrical Hazards • Any electrical equipment, including exten-
• Do NOT touch downed power lines or any sion cords, used in wet environments
object or water that is in contact with such must be marked, as appropriate, for use in
lines. wet locations and must be undamaged. Be
• Treat all power lines as energized until you sure that all connections are out of water.
are certain that the lines have been de- • All cord-connected, electrically operated
energized. tools and equipment must be grounded or
• Beware of overhead and underground be double insulated.
power lines when clearing debris. Extreme • Ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs)
caution is necessary when moving ladders must be used in all wet locations. Portable
and other equipment near overhead GFCIs can be purchased at hardware
power lines to avoid inadvertent contact. stores.
• If damage to an electrical system is sus-
pected (for example, if the wiring has Fire Protection
been under water, you can smell burning • Immediately evacuate any building that
insulation, wires are visibly frayed, or you has a gas leak until the leak is controlled
see sparks), turn off the electrical system and the area ventilated.
in the building and follow lockout/tagout • Be sure that an adequate number of fire
procedures before beginning work. Do not extinguishers are available and re-evaluate
turn the power back on until electrical the fire evacuation plan.
equipment has been inspected by a quali- • Be sure that all fire exits are clear of debris
fied electrician. and sandbags.
• When using a generator, be sure that the
main circuit breaker is OFF and locked out

This is one in a series of informational fact sheets highlighting OSHA programs, policies or
standards. It does not impose any new compliance requirements. For a comprehensive list of
compliance requirements of OSHA standards or regulations, refer to Title 29 of the Code of Federal
Regulations. This information will be made available to sensory impaired individuals upon request.
The voice phone is (202) 693-1999; teletypewriter (TTY) number: (877) 889-5627.

For more complete information:

U.S. Department of Labor

(800) 321-OSHA

DSTM 9/2005