Safety a Must During Midwest Flood Cleanup

OSHA, Red Cross stress work safety amid daunting rebuild efforts

Two weeks later, those of us not living in affected areas have likely forgotten about the destructive wave of tornadoes and floods that hit the Midwest on New Year’s weekend. For many, the return to work and the need to focus on everyday life can push the matter to the back of our minds.

The unfortunate reality of natural disasters is that the struggle continues long after the events themselves. While those affected search for solutions – trying  to locate family and possessions, assess damage, and reconstruct their lives – they require as much assistance as possible. First responders, emergency managers, members of the national guard and volunteers from around the nation have rallied together over the past two weeks to help those in need. OSHA staff members of local and regional areas were some of the first government workers on the scene. While fast and efficient cleanup is most desirable, these workers have stressed the importance of safety precautions during such dangerous situations.

Flooding has affected residents of at least 7 states along the Mississippi river. While low-lying counties in Illinois and Missouri were the most severely affected at first, levee ruptures in Missouri have caused water to increasingly flow south, putting southern states like Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana at high risk as well.

The American Red Cross has put forth its best efforts to aid those in dire need of assistance. This past weekend, its presence was constant in McDonald and Taney counties in southern Missouri, providing materials such as hammers, gloves, totes, storage containers, and clean-up kits from bulk distribution sites.

But continued cold and ice have made the effort increasingly difficult in certain areas. In Alexander County in southern Illinois, for example, many residents experienced heavy rain and snow that only worsened the conditions for recovery and have yet to see any improvement. OSHA emphasizes safety during these times, especially to volunteers whose understandable frustration may force them to act before professional aid arrives. OSHA warns residents to be aware of unstable structures, fallen electrical lines, and potential fall areas as some of the hazards to be on the lookout for. Other byproducts of the flooding to be avoided can include hypothermia, mold, and raw sewage from overflowing sewer lines.

“Businesses, municipalities and workers can find more information about preparing for disasters and working safely in disaster areas on OSHA’s website or by contacting their local OSHA offices. We wish the people of Missouri and the Midwest a safe and speedy recovery, and our trained personnel stand ready to assist any community that may need us in the future,” the organization encourages.


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