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Minnesota OSHA Compliance -- Flood cleanup poses unique hazards

Severe flooding, an occurrence all too familiar in recent years, has damaged homes and businesses across southern and northwestern Minnesota this spring. Federal OSHA has issued a series of Flood Cleanup Alerts about the hazards workers may encounter during flood cleanup. These two-page documents include:

  • How to Protect Yourself From Safety and Health Hazards During Cleanup Operations, which identifies health tips, general precautions, clothing and personal protective equipment, electrical hazards and fire protection issues;

  • How to Protect Yourself When Cleaning Up After a Flood, which provides information about infectious agents and chemical hazards associated with flooding and subsequent cleanup;

  • How to Protect Yourself from Fungal Diseases, which describes hypersensitivity pneumonitis or "farmer's lung" and provides tips for avoiding farmer's lung, fungal skin diseases and mycotoxins;

  • How to Protect Yourself from Asbestos Hazards, which explains how flood-cleanup workers can be exposed to asbestos and summarizes the OSHA asbestos in construction standard; and

  • How to Protect Yourself from the Hazards of Lead Poisoning, which explains how flood-cleanup workers can be exposed to lead and summarizes the OSHA lead in construction standard.

The fact sheets are on the federal OSHA website.

The Minnesota Department of Public Safety, Homeland Security and Emergency Management website also provides flood information. Besides weather forecasts, flood outlooks and road closures, the site features links to flood recovery information from other state and federal agencies, including the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the Minnesota Department of Health, the University of Minnesota Extension Service and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has developed a four-page update about flood-cleanup hazards, including electrical hazards, carbon monoxide, musculoskeletal injuries, heat and cold stress, heavy equipment, structural instability, hazardous materials, fire and drowning. NIOSH Warns of Hazards of Flood Cleanup Work also contains information about prevention measures, confined-space entry, work on or near power lines and agricultural hazards. There are also tips for avoiding injury and illness due to stress, long hours and fatigue. This publication and other flood-related information, can be accessed via the NIOSH website.

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