When you’re able to get back on site after a flood or storm, here are the hazards, risks and control measures you should consider to help reduce the risk of injury and illness to yourself, your workers and others involved in the clean up and repair effort.
Some common hazards following a storm or flood:
- Electrical – Water damage, loss of power, damaged electrical installations
- Biological hazards and fauna – Contaminated flood water and displaced fauna
- Asbestos – Damaged building materials that contain asbestos
- Slips, trips and falls – Uneven surfaces from storm/ floods
- Hazardous chemicals – Buried, moved or damaged hazardous chemical containers including corrosives, oils, pesticides
- Psychological stress – Remember to check on your team, the emotional impacts of a storm or flood can be overwhelming, particularly if they are dealing with personal damage
- Identify the hazards – What are the hazards on your site including any newly introduced hazards due to the storm or flood?
- Assess the level of risk – What is the likelihood of exposure to the hazard, and the consequences (what harm could be done)?
- Control the risk – Identify and implement suitable control measures and ensure the risk has been reduced to an acceptable level prior to undertaking related work.
- Review the control measures – Regularly assess how effective the controls are. It’s important to stop work and reassess if conditions change or if you have introduced any new hazards.
Safety tips when undertaking the cleanup and repair work
- Work out the order of the work to be done so that new risks are not introduced, e.g. if you move things in the wrong order is there a possibility of creating instability.
- Ensure surfaces are stable and access to areas with unstable floors are safe.
- Have a licensed electrical contractor check any electrical appliances or equipment you suspect has been submerged or damaged.
- Consider workers performing cleanup in teams/ pairs where possible.
- Wash your hands well before eating and drinking, after contact with mud, flood water and contaminated items and equipment.
- Make sure that workers have the correct personal protective equipment to prevent injuries such as cuts and scratches or infections from contaminated flood water.
- Check that your workers and contractors are not fatigued or potentially unfit to work, i.e due to mental health stressors.
- Agree on what situations workers should remove themselves from, where the risk cannot be reduced to an acceptable level. Some work may have to be delayed until water subsides and other factors.
- Ensure emergency procedures are discussed for the site with all workers.
- Assess the area for the risk of potential collapse or slips.
- Do not attempt to clear up slips until they have been assessed.
- If there is property damage (i.e. damage to buildings, not land) but no injuries call your local council Building Compliance team to assess if the buildings / site is safe to work or occupy.
- If you are unsure about the stability of your site or if you think it may be unsafe to go back to work contact a local engineering consultancy to provide advice on the next steps. Ask for a Professional Engineering Geologist (with PEngGeol registration) or Geotechnical Engineer (with CPEng registration).