As the clean-up and recovery efforts in flood-affected areas continues, volunteers should take proper precautions to stay healthy and safe. Volunteers should:
* Identify hazards before starting work in a flood-damaged building.
* Don’t do work you are not trained to do.
* Wear proper safety equipment.
* Ask questions or speak up if you are concerned something is unsafe.
The Occupational Health and Safety Act< http://humanservices.alberta.ca/working-in-alberta/307.html> applies to all workers, including volunteers. Organizations coordinating the use of volunteers must ensure that volunteers are aware of the hazards they may face and have the appropriate equipment and training to perform the tasks assigned to them. If volunteers are unsure of the hidden dangers in Flood-damaged buildings they should err on the side of caution and not perform a task.
Before starting work on a flood-damaged building, volunteers and supervisors should conduct a hazard assessment hazard assessment to identify the risks and make a plan to keep everyone onsite safe.
Every work site is different but hazards volunteers may encounter could include such things as:
* the structural integrity of the building
* electrical lines and wires
* building materials containing asbestos and silica
* non-asbestos insulation materials such as fibre glass and refractory ceramic fibre
* lead paints and mercury (fluorescent lights, switches, gauges), batteries and fuels
* PCBs (liquid-cooled equipment, light ballasts, paints, electrical insulating materials)
* oils, lubricants, paints, glues, solvents and thinners
* cooling system chemicals such as Freon and compressed gases
* human/animal waste
Volunteers should be wearing proper personal protective equipment such as footwear, gloves, safety glasses and respiratory masks during flood and associated cleanup.
Heat stress also poses a risk to volunteers. It is important to stay hydrated, take breaks and wear appropriate clothing. Signs of heat stress may include:
* dizziness / faintness / fatigue
* irritability / anger / mood change
* heavy sweating/ heat rash
* muscle cramps
* changes to breathing and pulse rate
When tearing out basements, the first instinct is to remove all materials that are wet or damp, including walls. These actions can pose risks.
* If a wall is load-bearing, it should not be removed and the owner should contact a qualified structural engineer.
* Asbestos is not to be removed by any volunteers under any circumstances. Asbestos can pose significant long-term health risks. Qualified professionals should be contacted for the safe removal of these items.
If workers or volunteers have health and safety questions/concerns they can call the OHS contact centre at 1-866-415-8690.
By working together we can help everyone get through the day healthy and safe.