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Recovery operations after storms can cause workplace injuries

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration expressed its concern for workers involved in cleanup operations after the recent storms in Oklahoma and other states. The agency warned that many hazards exist in recovery procedures, and required steps must be taken to ensure the safety of workers and volunteers alike. Dangers of workplace injuries can be minimized by safe practices and appropriate personal protective equipment.

Hazards related to storm recovery operations include the restoration of communications, electricity, water and sewer services. The cleanup of debris, trimming of damaged trees, repair of roadways and bridges as well as structural damage to buildings pose additional hazards. Any hazardous waste must also be handled with the utmost care.

OSHA said all workers must be properly trained in cleanup operations and the use of required equipment. All work areas must be evaluated before recovery commences. Qualified engineers must be used in assessment procedures before structural damage is cleared or repaired, and all power lines must be regarded as live. The dangers of equipment such as saws, ladders and generators must not be disregarded, and any operations in traffic zones must be subject to appropriate safety precautions.

If anyone in Oklahoma suffers workplace injuries during recovery operations, financial relief is typically available to assist with unanticipated losses. Benefits claims may be pursued through the workers' compensation insurance program. The benefits awarded are designed to cover medical expenses and lost income. Victims who are unfamiliar with the claims procedures may consult with an experienced workers' compensation attorney who can offer advice and support at every stage of the claims process. 

Source:, " US Labor urges tornado recovery workers to be aware of hazards during storm cleanup ", Dec. 31, 2015

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