Thursday, September 18, 2008

OSHA deploys staff and resources to safeguard cleanup and recovery personnel in areas hit by Hurricane

National News Release: 08-1280-NAT
Sept. 5, 2008
Contact: Sharon Worthy David Sims
Phone: 202-693-4676 202-693-1898

U.S. Department of Labor's OSHA deploys staff and resources to safeguard cleanup and recovery personnel in areas hit by Hurricane Gustav

WASHINGTON -- To help protect crews performing cleanup and recovery operations in the wake of Hurricane Gustav from hazards such as downed power lines and falls from heights, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has sent safety and health experts into storm damaged areas of Mississippi and Louisiana.

"OSHA is helping employers protect their employees from the many potential dangers they can encounter in this difficult but important work," said Edwin G. Foulke Jr., assistant secretary of labor for OSHA. "We want to ensure that the men and women working to restore the homes of other people make it safely back to their own homes at the end of the day."

In southern Mississippi, regional OSHA personnel monitored more than a dozen cleanup and recovery operations involving downed electrical lines, fallen tree limbs, sand drifts and other debris left behind by floodwaters and high winds. They advised employers on how to minimize safety and health risks to their employees on the job and made certain that worksite hazards they encountered were promptly corrected.

OSHA deployed staff to the Louisiana State Police's Emergency Operations Center and the federal Joint Field Office coordinating relief efforts, both located in Baton Rouge, La. OSHA personnel provided technical assistance throughout the affected areas and distributed educational materials to employers on such topics as how to safely operate chain saws and portable generators.

The agency also deployed its Specialized Response Team (SRT) to Baton Rouge to support OSHA's regional operations. The SRT includes industrial hygienists, engineers, and other occupational safety and health experts who are highly trained in identifying and mitigating hazards associated with catastrophic events. The team arrived with a trailer housing specialized monitoring devices as well as respirators, gloves and other personal protective equipment for use in assessing safety and health hazards.

In addition to the technical expertise being offered in the field, the Labor Department's hurricane recovery assistance Web page at provides online resources to help ensure that cleanup and recovery efforts for Gustav and future hurricanes are conducted in the safest way possible. Employers and employees looking for more information or with specific questions should call the department's toll-free helpline at 866-4-USA-DOL (487-2365).

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing a safe and healthy workplace for their employees. OSHA's role is to promote the safety and health of America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards; providing training, outreach and education; establishing partnerships; and encouraging continual process improvement in workplace safety and health. For more information, visit .

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