Workplaces all across the U.S. are located in floodplains. Rivers, dams and even small creeks or drainage ditches can spill over with little or no notice. Workers and employers need to be prepared before water levels rise to ensure they make it home safely at the end of the workday.
This year, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are joining forces to promote Flood Safety Awareness Week, March 16-22. OSHA and its partners are encouraging workers and employers to be aware of dangerous conditions during and after floods. Learn more at OSHA’s Flood Preparedness and Response page.
Employers should stay aware of weather forecasts, train workers on workplace severe weather plans, and keep emergency supplies, including a battery-operated weather radio, on hand to be better prepared for flooding conditions. Employers must also ensure that workers involved in response and recovery are protected from potential safety and health hazards. The response section of OSHA’s flood page features more information about the hazards workers face after waters recede, including mold, electrical shocks and chemical exposures.
Employers should never direct workers to walk or drive into flood waters, and are also responsible for training workers about what safety precautions to take when facing flood conditions in their work areas. NOAA reports that more than half of the 85 flood-related fatalities last year were a result of people driving into flood waters. This year marks the 10th anniversary of NOAA’s “Turn Around, Don’t Drown®” campaign.
This is the second in a series of blogs on severe weather preparedness. Stay tuned for more best practices on workplace safety from OSHA and NOAA.
Mandy Edens is the director of OSHA’s Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management.