Monday, March 14, 2011

Part V & VI: New Jersey Tips - Cleaning Up After a Flood

Part V - Decontaminate Buildings and Contents

• Remove loose dirt and debris from affected surfaces, using a po

wer hose.

• Use a combination of household bleach (1/2 cup bleach per gallon of water)

and soap or detergent to wash down walls, floors, and other contaminated areas, including exterior surfaces.

• Keep the surface wet for 5-15 minutes.

• Rinse thoroughly with a power hose to remove any residue. This will eliminate fungal problems and their dangers.

• Follow directions on containers and take particular note of warnings. Do not mix cleaning compounds containing ammonia with bleach.

• Remove heating and cooling registers and ducts, then hose the ducts to prevent contamination from blowing through the ducts at a later date. After hosing duct work, wash with a disinfectant or sanitizer that is phenolic or pine-oil based. If ducts are in concrete or otherwise inaccessible, have them cleaned professionally.

• Discard clothing, carpets, upholstered furniture, and similar items if they cannot be cleaned and disinfected.

• Take immediate action to minimize the growth of molds and fungi:

  • Inventory all flooded areas so that every water-damaged area is identified, treated, and cleaned.
  • Remove and dispose of all wet ceiling tiles and drywall within 24 hours of water contact.
  • Remove and replace all drywall and insulation up to 12 inches above the water line.
  • Dry all wet light fixtures.
  • Replace water-damaged furniture, including wood, or clean it with a 10% bleach solution. (Note: be sure to verify that bleach will not discolor or damage surfaces before application. When in doubt, test in a small hidden area before general application.) Discard furniture made of or with particle board or pressed board. Treat fabrics as you would carpeting (see below).
  • Leave all cabinets and drawers open to facilitate air flow for drying. Treat surfaces of cabinets and drawers with the dilute bleach solution.
  • Remove and discard all non-essential wet files and paper. Remove essential paper to a location where it can be dried, photocopied, and discarded.
  • If a large amount of paper cannot be dried within 24 hours, rinse essential files with clean water and freeze them temporarily until proper drying can take place. (Freezing will prevent mold growth.)
  • Immediately remove as much water as possible from wet carpeting, using a water vacuum.
  • After wet vacuuming, shampoo the carpet with a 10% bleach solution twice within a thirty minute period. Begin shampooing immediately after wet vacuuming. Spot test an inconspicuous area before proceeding.
  • Rinse the carpet with clear water to remove the bleach, and ensure that the carpet is totally dry within 12-24 hours of treatment.
  • If the carpet fades with the bleach solution, then dry the carpet immediately and treat it with an alternate biocide. Consult a public health official, microbiologist, or industrial hygienist to determine the right biocide.
  • When any form of biocide (including bleach) is used, increase air circulation and ventilation.
  • Use dehumidifiers and air conditioning to speed the drying process.
  • If odors or complaints of health effects exist after the clean up, consult an industrial hygienist or environmental microbiologist to determine the need for bioaerosol testing.

Part VI - Ensure Worker Safety During Clean-Up

Stress, Long Hours, and Fatigue Increase the Risks for Injuries and Illness

Continued long hours of work, combined with emotional and physical exhaustion and losses from damaged homes and temporary job layoffs, can create a highly stressful situation for flood cleanup workers. Workers exposed to these stressful conditions have an increased risk of injury and emotional crisis, and are more vulnerable to stress-induced illnesses and disease. Emotional support from family members, neighbors, and local mental health professionals can help to prevent more serious stress-related problems in the difficult months ahead. People working in all phases of flood cleanup can reduce their risks of injury and illness in several ways:

• Set priorities for cleanup tasks and pace the work over several days (or weeks). Avoid exhaustion.

• Resume a normal sleep schedule as quickly as possible. Get plenty of rest and take frequent rest breaks before exhaustion builds up.

• Take advantage of disaster relief programs and services in your community.

• Be alert to emotional exhaustion or strain. When family members and neighbors are unavailable for emotional support, consult professionals at community health and mental health centers.

Be Ready to Provide First Aid

First aid, even for minor cuts and burns, is extremely important when exposure to waters potentially contaminated with human, animal, or toxic wastes exists. Immediately clean out all open wounds and cuts with soap and clean water. Most cuts, except minor scratches, sustained during flood cleanup activities will warrant treatment to prevent tetanus. If you are injured, contact a physician to determine the necessary type of treatment.

Provide Assistance to Employees and Their Families

• Employees may be stranded at your facility. Be prepared with food, water, blankets, transportation, radios, etc.

• Good communication is essential. Help your employees stay in touch with their families. Provide frequent updates about the status of the flood, community recovery, and your plans for recovery.

• If necessary, help your employees secure shelter, medical care, food, water, clothing, cash, transportation, disaster aid, etc., for themselves and their families. The recovery of your business depends on the availability of your workers.

• Provide information and assistance to help employees and their families deal with injuries or deaths, or with damage to their homes and property (see attached).

Provide Appropriate Personal Protective Equipment

For most work in flooded areas, you will need the following personal protective equipment: hard hats, goggles, heavy work gloves, respirators, and watertight boots with steel toe and insole (not just steel shank). Excessive noise from equipment such as chain saws, backhoes, tractors, pavement breakers, blowers, and dryers may cause ringing in the ears and subsequent hearing damage. If you are working with any noise over which you must shout to be heard, wear earplugs or other hearing protection devices.

Ensure Electrical Safety

Use extreme caution while working with electrical equipment, attempting to restore power, or clearing areas near downed power lines. These steps may save your life:

• Treat all power lines as energized until you have followed the required procedures for de-energizing and testing them with an appropriate testing device. Do not rely on “fuzzing” to determine if a power line has been de-energized.

• Verifying that a line is not energized may not ensure your safety. You must also ground lines on both the load and supply sides of the work area. Grounding is necessary to protect you from the hazards of feedback electrical energy from a secondary power source, such as a portable generator.

• When restoring power in underground vaults, added precautions are necessary to prevent explosions. As vaults containing electrical connections are drained or pumped out, and as connections are energized, explosive gases may form. Follow appropriate regulations for working in confined spaces.

• When using gasoline and diesel generators to supply power, switch the main breaker or fuse on the service panel to the “off ” position prior to starting the generator. This will prevent inadvertent energization of power lines from “backfeed” electrical energy from the generators, and will help to protect utility line workers from possible electrocution. If clearing or other work must be performed near a downed power line, contact the utility company to discuss de-energizing and grounding or shielding of power lines. Extreme caution is necessary when moving ladders and other equipment near overhead power lines to avoid contact.

Be Cautious About Carbon Monoxide

Flood cleanup activities may involve the use of gasoline- or diesel-powered pumps, generators, and pressure washers. Because these devices release carbon monoxide, a deadly, colorless, odorless gas, operate all gasoline powered devices outdoors and never bring them indoors. It is virtually impossible to assess adequate ventilation.

Prevent Musculoskeletal Injuries

Cleanup workers are at risk for developing serious musculoskeletal injuries to the hands, back, knees, and shoulders. Special attention is needed to avoid back injuries associated with manual lifting and handling of equipment or debris and building materials. To help prevent injury, use teams of two or more people to move bulky objects, avoid lifting any material that weighs more than 50 pounds (per person), and use proper automated-assist lifting devices.

Prevent Thermal Stress

Heat. When clean-up takes place during warm weather, workers are at serious risk for developing heat stress. Excessive exposure to hot environments can cause a variety of heat-related problems, including heat stroke, heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and fainting. To reduce the potential for heat stress, drink a glass of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes and wear light-colored, loose-fitting clothing. Additionally, incorporate work-rest cycles into work routines, work during the cooler hours of the day, when possible, or distribute the workload evenly throughout the day. When air conditioning is unavailable, open windows and use fans.

Cold. Standing or working in water which is cooler than 75ºF (24ºC) will remove body heat more rapidly than it can be replaced, resulting in hypothermia. To reduce the risk of hypothermia, wear high rubber boots, ensure that clothing and boots have adequate insulation, avoid working alone, take frequent breaks out of the water, and change into dry clothing when possible.

Ensure Safe Work in Confined Spaces

If you are required to work in a boiler, furnace, pipeline, pit, pumping station, septic tank, sewage digester, storage tank, utility vault, well, or similar enclosure, you should be aware of the hazards of working in confined spaces. Toxic gases, a lack of oxygen, or explosive conditions may exist in the confined area, resulting in a potentially deadly atmosphere. Because many toxic gases and vapors cannot be seen or smelled, never trust your senses to determine if safe entry is possible. Never enter a confined space, even to rescue a fellow worker, unless you have been properly trained! If you do not have the proper training and equipment, contact your local fire department for assistance.

Ensure That Only Trained Workers Operate Heavy Equipment

Only people who are properly trained should operate heavy equipment (such as bulldozers, backhoes, and tractors).

Be Aware of Agricultural Hazards

If you are involved in cleanup efforts on or near farms, you may face these additional hazards:

Confined Spaces on Farms. Molding or fermenting agricultural materials in confined spaces may generate large amounts of toxic gases which could cause lung damage or death if inhaled. Turn on fans or blowers in silos and other storage areas at least 30 minutes before entering and leave them on while working. Never open an oxygen-limiting silo if heating is suspected. Also, never enter these areas alone, and always use a full body safety harness.

Respiratory Hazards. Wet hay, grain, silage, compost, and other organic/agricultural materials often grow large amounts of bacteria and mold during warm weather. Breathing these organisms and the organic dust produced

may cause lung disease. Use proper engineering controls, including adequate fresh air ventilation. When exposure to organic dust cannot be avoided, use NIOSH-certified air-purifying respirators with high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters to reduce the risk.

Fire Hazard of Stored Hay. Wet hay will mold very quickly. The biological processes involved in the formation of bacteria and mold can cause the hay to undergo spontaneous combustion. Monitor wet hay for odors, hot and damp areas, and rising vapors. If you detect these hazards, remove the wet hay from the building.

Sources of Information and Assistance

Do you carry a Flood policy for your NJ home or NJ Business? Have you reviewed your flood coverage since you took out your policy? Do you know you can purchase flood insurance even if you are not in a flood zone? These are just a few of the questions that Eastern Insurors can answer to make sure you are properly protected in case of a natural disaster, fire or any other event. Give us a call 800.269.3203 or email Eastern Insurors with any of your insurance questions. You can visit us online for more information on flood insurance here.

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