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Safety Tips | Workplace exposure

Work safely in floodwaters

October 1, 2011

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Floodwaters can be contaminated with any number of dangerous substances that may cause serious illness or even death, such as micro-organisms, sewage and industrial waste. It is imperative to maintain good hygiene when working in areas affected by floods. OSHA recommends the following:

Wear protective gloves. When working in contaminated waters or handling contaminated objects or human or animal remains, gloves should be worn. Gloves should be heavy, cut-resistant and made of a water-proof material, such as nitrile.

Wash hands with clean water and soap. It is especially important that workers wash their hands thoroughly after decontamination work or cleanup, before preparing or eating food, and after using the bathroom. Water must be clean or disinfected. Disinfect water by mixing one-quarter teaspoon of bleach to each gallon of contaminated water. Allow the mixture to stand for 30 minutes. Be sure to label all disinfected water containers, clearly stating that the water has been disinfected with bleach and is unsafe to drink. Fresh solutions should be prepared daily.

Treating wounds. Wounds sustained while working in floodwaters should be immediately cleaned with soap and clean or disinfected water or hand sanitizer. If the wound becomes red, swollen or begins oozing pus, seek medical attention immediately.

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