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Disaster Recovery Poses Unique Construction Work Zone Safety Issues

June 22, 2015
 / Safety / 

wimberleyfloodAfter a natural disaster strikes, clearing and repairing basic infrastructure begins immediately.

One of the most important tasks is to make sure that the roads and bridges are cleared and repaired to allow emergency and repair crews full access to a community.

Roadway work zones pose a unique danger to construction workers, and emergency conditions increase that risk. Texas has recently been hit with major flooding, and the highway and bridge workers will be working nonstop to keep traffic flowing.

As crews begin to set up work zones, they face the possibility of continued disaster conditions. Bad weather, flash flooding, and earth or rock slides are a few examples. Even if the area in which the work zone is located did not sustain major damage before, conditions can go downhill fast. Workers should be alert for new danger.

Even minor flooding can bring major problems on roadways. Flood waters are filled with lots of debris, and work zone crews are tasked with cleaning it up. Unknown and possibly dangerous or flammable chemicals can be present, along with biological concerns such as sewage. Larger pieces of debris can become fall hazards, and branches that have broken but not fallen could be an overhead risk.

Wildlife is yet another environmental hazard. Entire colonies of stinging insects, such as fire ants, bees, and wasps, may have been moved along in the flood waters or taken to nesting in the debris. Animals that are disoriented or injured could be hiding in the debris or near the work zone and may be more aggressive.

Downed electrical lines are a big threat, along with other damaged utility lines such as gas. If generators are used because of power failure, exhaust fumes from those and other equipment can be toxic. Silt, dust, and mold create respiratory problems as well. 

Along with minor surface issues like potholes, serious damage to roadways and bridges can occur. These structural problems lead to road failure and even bridge collapse. Employees in work zones that were created prior to the disaster should be on the lookout for any changes or weaknesses in support structures and take extra safety measures. New and mobile work zones may have to work on new safety procedures if conditions make it hard to set up and maintain traffic control and proper signage.

OSHA has a more in-depth look at work zone safety after a disaster here. While workers are helping rebuild, it is important to help keep them safe.

HCSS Safety can help you manage your safety program in unique and challenging conditions, including remote work zones, with a mobile app that helps you hold on-site safety meetings and inspections, record incidents and near misses, and manage employee certifications and skills in the palm of your hand.

Find out more about HCSS Safety here.

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(Photo courtesy of thisweekinwimberley.com)



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