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Working safely in flood conditions

The recent severe flooding in North Carolina's neighboring state has brought workplace safety in flood conditions into the spotlight. The information in this post is important to all kinds of state workers including those who work to clean up after a flood and those who are simply returning to their regular worksites, which may still be underwater.

According the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, many hazards can be present in flood conditions. The first hazard OSHA talks about is driving during flood conditions. The administration cautions workers who must drive to be cautious in unknown road conditions, stating that almost half of flood-related deaths involve motor vehicles.

Other flood hazards that could result in workplace accidents include the following.

-- Electrical hazards, which can increase in the presence of water.

-- Carbon monoxide hazards due to the use of diesel and gas powered pumps and other equipment.

-- Lifting hazards, which can occur as workers struggle to clean up the worksite.

-- Pest hazards from snakes, rodents, insects and stray animals include bites and disease from dead pests.

-- Drowning hazards that might occur in fast-moving water or stagnant water that might be deeper than workers perceive.

-- Fire hazards from damaged protection systems.

-- Hypothermia hazards, which can occur if laborers spend time in water that is colder than 75 degrees Fahrenheit.

Many industries include flood preparedness and training in their workplace safety plans, but nothing can replace individual care and caution while working. Flooding can occur anywhere and at any time; ask your employer about including flood training and safety in your occupation's safety plan. If you have been needlessly injured while working during flood conditions, you should know that the law is on your side. Consider speaking with a North Carolina attorney about your legal options if you cannot find satisfaction through your employer.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, "Flood Preparedness and Response," accessed Oct. 13, 2015

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