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The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s Hurricane eMatrix outlines the most commonly performed activities during hurricane response and recovery work and provides detailed information about associated hazards.
It is designed to help employers make decisions to protect workers and offers recommendations for personal protective equipment, safe work practices and precautions for each activity, according to the agency.
Some of its recommendations directly address the hazards of contaminated water. In its hazard control section, for example, the agency suggests decontaminating equipment and personnel after contact with contaminated floodwater or chemicals.
In the personal protective equipment section, OSHA recommends the use of American National Standards Institute-approved protective footwear, with employers advised to give special consideration to water protection in wet or flooded areas.
To prevent contact with contaminated water or blood or body fluids, the agency advises covering cuts and lacerations with bandages and using fluid-proof gloves and clothing to prevent penetration to the underlying skin. In addition, fluid-proof gloves should be covered with heavy-duty work gloves if there is a potential for cuts and abrasions, and employees should report any exposure to blood or body fluids to their supervisors.
In the wake of several recent natural disasters in the United States and abroad, employers should be aware of contaminated water and the multiple safety hazards it can present to workers, experts say.