Spring Storms Bring Annual Flooding Safety Reminder

Floods in the Midwest cause for worker caution

May 20, 2020

As the Chicago area recovers from the weekend’s floods, safety authorities are reminding facility managers to exercise caution when returning to their buildings. Flooding can disrupt water purification and sewage disposal systems, causing sickness in workers and others who come in contact with contaminated floodwater, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA). Downed power lines in flooded areas may contain electrical or fire hazards.

Follow these tips when cleaning up or reentering a flooded facility:

  • Workers should assume that any water in flooded or surrounding areas is not safe. To avoid waterborne disease, wash your hands with soap and clean, running water, especially before work breaks, meal breaks, and at the end of the work shift.
  • If water is suspected of being contaminated with hazardous chemicals, cleanup workers should wear plastic or rubber gloves, boots, and other personal protective equipment needed to avoid contact with floodwater.
  • Be aware of the risk of electrocution. Do not touch electrical equipment if it is wet or if you are standing in water. If it is safe to do so, turn off the electricity to prevent electric shock.
  • Avoid wading in floodwater, which can be contaminated and contain dangerous debris. Underground or downed power lines can also electrically charge the water.
  • Use a generator or other gasoline-powered machinery only outdoors and away from windows.

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