What are the hazards associated with hurricane assistance and recovery?
The hazards associated with assisting victims immediately following a hurricane are many and varied and can result in serious injury, illness or death when the necessary precautions are not taken, including the use of personal protective equipment. Because hurricanes in the Northern Hemisphere generally occur during early fall when the residual summer heat can quickly return after the storm has passed, precautions against heat stress need to be observed. Where portable generators and other combustion-powered equipment are used, such equipment must be used in well-ventilated areas and exhaust directed outside to prevent the build-up of carbon monoxide.
Since flooding very often accompanies hurricanes, additional health hazards are often presented. Hazardous animals such as venomous snakes and spiders are often dislodged and can be encountered when working to cleanup storm debris. With the flooding also comes surges in the mosquito population which, in turn, can lead to the spread of diseases. Due to the possibility of water-borne diseases and other types of contamination, workers must be sure to observe proper hand hygiene, especially before consuming food and drink.
Remediation of damage caused to buildings by wind and trees presents its own set of hazards. Care must be taken to identify and stay clear of downed power lines. Individuals engaged in tree trimming and tree removal who use chain saws should use eye protection, hearing protection, face shields and hard hats for protection of the eyes, ears, face and head, as well as gloves, chaps and steel toe shoes for hands, legs and feet. Individuals working from elevated work surfaces (roofs, boom trucks, etc.) must also be sure to use fall protection systems.
What can I do to protect myself?
Do not attempt to operate equipment for which you have not received training. Be sure to wear all required or recommended personal protective equipment. Thoroughly wash hands with soap and potable water before handling food and drink.
What resources are available to assist employers?
Training and Outreach Services
Presentations on a variety of associated topics can be adapted for use prior to engaging in clean-up and recovery operations. These include fall protection, personal protective equipment, heat stress, and stairways and ladders.
In addition, the education, training and technical assistance bureau provides free online safety and health training and outreach services (i.e., speaker's bureau requests, safety booths) upon request.
Lastly, the NCDOL Library offers free safety and health videos (including streaming video services) and related research assistance on consensus standards (i.e., ANSI, NFPA, NEC).
Safety and Health Programs
An example PPE hazard analysis and training policy is available and can be customized to fit workplace conditions. Employers are required to perform a workplace hazard analysis to determine what personal protective equipment is necessary to protect employees from continued exposure to identified hazards.
A-Z Safety and Health Topics
Related resources can be found on the A-Z safety and health topics pages for personal protective equipment, respiratory protection, fall protection, arboriculture, electrical safety, highway work zone safety, vector-borne diseases and heat stress.
The consultative services bureau provides free and confidential onsite consultation regarding worksite safety and health hazards.
Which standards apply?
Some of the OSH standards that can be used as guidance for workers and volunteers engaged in hurricane assistance and recovery are below. Note: Please also check the standards information and activity webpage to see if there has been any recent or upcoming regulatory activity on this topic.
29 CFR 1910.132 - general requirements
29 CFR 1910.133 - eye and face protection
29 CFR 1910.135 - head protection
29 CFR 1910.136 - foot protection
29 CFR 1910.137 - electrical protective equipment
29 CFR 1910.138 - hand protection
29 CFR 1910.140 - personal fall protection systems
29 CFR 1910.266 - logging
29 CFR 1926.28 - personal protecctive equipment
29 CFR 1926.62 - lead
29 CFR 1926.252 - disposal of waste materials
29 CFR 1926.453 - aerial lifts
29 CFR 1926.501 - duty to have fall protection
29 CFR 1926.502 - fall protection systems criteria and practices
29 CFR 1926.503 - fall protection, training requirements
29 CFR 1926 Subpart E - personal protective and life saving equipment
29 CFR 1926 Subpart T - demolition
29 CFR 1926 Subpart X - stairways and ladders
29 CFR 1926 Subpart AA - confined spaces in construction
Other Applicable Standards
The Which OSHA Standards Apply webpage can also help identify other standards that may be applicable to your worksite.
Where can I learn more?
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed the Hurricane Key Messages for Employer, Workers, and Volunteers to provide guidance for emergency response.
Industry Guide 48 - OSHA Construction Industry Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training provides requirements for standards related to construction.
Industry Guide 49 - OSHA General Industry Standards Requiring Programs, Inspections, Procedures, Records and/or Training provides requirements for standards related to general industry.
If you would like to receive interpretive guidance on this or any other OSH standard or topic, you can submit your questions using the Ask OSH web form, by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 919-707-7876.