The Department of Labor’s coordinated national and local safety and health response to hurricanes Katrina and Rita cleanup efforts is reportedly resulting in greater worker safety and lives saved.
As of late in the week, OSHA has intervened in nearly 5,000 situations where some 10,500 workers could have been seriously injured.
“More than 100 OSHA hurricane response workers have fanned out across Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Texas to help protect workers involved in cleanup and recovery operations,” said Jonathan Snare, acting assistant secretary for occupational safety and health. “Our goal, every day, is for these workers to go home safely to their families.”
OSHA’s response team is systematically visiting electric and telecommunications utility restoration, construction, debris removal and tree trimming staging areas to provide advice and information on hazards these workers will encounter, such as downed power lines, tree damage, debris, home and building damage, road clearing, crane activity, and flood water. OSHA staff are advising employers and workers on use of personnel protective equipment and other safety measures.
At the national office, OSHA employees are staffing the Interagency Incident Management Group and Health and Human Services Secretary’s Emergency Operations Center. OSHA staff are also coordinating requests from the field with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, departments of Homeland Security, Defense, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency and other Department of Labor agencies.
After Hurricane Katrina made landfall, FEMA activated the Worker Safety and Health Support Annex under the National Response Plan. The annex describes actions needed to ensure that threats to responder safety and health are anticipated, recognized, evaluated and controlled consistently so that responders are properly protected during incident management operations. OSHA was charged with coordinating technical support for federal responder and federal contractor safety and health during cleanup and recovery operations in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Following Hurricane Rita, the annex was extended to cover Texas responders and contractors.
In addition to the information materials already available, safety and health staff are developing broad information materials that will help workers avoid hazards and stay safe. These materials will be delivered to the on-the-ground team to place in the hands of cleanup and recovery workers.
Safety and health information is available by calling 1-866-4-USA-DOL or by visiting the Department of Labor’s Web site (www.dol.gov) and clicking on the hurricane recovery page, or from OSHA’s Web page at www.osha.gov/OshDoc/hurricaneRecovery.html.
Was this article valuable?
Here are more articles you may enjoy.