MOSH and OSHA Call On Workers and Public to Guard Against Safety Hazards During Hurricane Clean Up


BALTIMORE, MD (September 2, 2011) – As residents of Maryland recover from damage inflicted by Hurricane Irene, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health (MOSH) of Maryland’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation urge workers and members of the public engaged in hurricane cleanup activities to be aware of the hazards they might encounter and the steps they should take to protect themselves.

“Hurricane Irene proved to be a formidable storm. Clean up and repairs continue across the state. The Maryland Labor Department strongly urges all Maryland families and workers to be safe and use extreme caution as we all clean up from the storm,” said Maryland Labor Secretary Alexander M. Sanchez.

“Hurricane recovery work involves a wide range of safety and health hazards,” said William A. Burke, acting administrator of OSHA’s Philadelphia Regional Office. “These hazards can be minimized by knowledge, safe work practices and personal protective equipment. Federal OSHA and Maryland OSH want to make certain that no casualties result from cleanup operations.”

Cleanup work can involve restoring electricity, communications, water and sewer services; demolition activities; removal of floodwater from structures; entry into flooded areas; cleaning up debris; tree trimming; structural, roadway, bridge, and dam and levee repair; use of cranes, aerial lifts and other heavy equipment; hazardous waste operations; and emergency response activities.

Inherent hazards may include illness from exposure to contaminated water or food, exposure or heat stress, downed electrical wires, carbon monoxide and electrical hazards from portable generators, fall and “struck-by” hazards from tree trimming or working at heights, being caught in unprotected excavations or confined spaces, burns, lacerations, musculoskeletal injuries, being struck by traffic or heavy equipment, and drowning from being caught in moving water or while removing water from flooded structures.

Protective measures should involve evaluating the work area for all hazards; task-specific hazard exposure monitoring; utilizing engineering or work practice controls to mitigate hazards; using personal protective equipment; assuming all power lines are live; following proper hygiene procedures; using portable generators, saws, ladders, vehicles and other equipment correctly; and utilizing proper precautions for traffic work zones.

OSHA maintains comprehensive websites on keeping disaster site workers safe during hurricane cleanup and recovery operations and flooding preparedness and response at the OSHA's Hurricane Preparedness and Response page and the OSHA Responds to Hurricane Irene page. Federal OSHA is responsible for federal, postal and maritime workplaces and military bases in Maryland, and its Baltimore/Washington Area Office may be reached at 410-865-2055, with more information online. MOSH has jurisdiction over all public and private sector places of employment in the state of Maryland. It can be reached at 410-527-4499, and more information is available at our website.

Additionally, a checklist of activities to be undertaken before, during and after a hurricane is available from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

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 working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit OSHA's website.

The Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation protects and empowers Marylanders by safeguarding workers, protecting consumers, providing a safety net and cultivating a thriving workforce that can meet the demands of Maryland’s dynamic economy. Follow DLLR on Twitter (@MD_DLLR) and Facebook.