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Weekly Toolbox Talk: Heavy Rain Hazards

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Floodwaters often overwhelm sewage systems, leading to discharges of raw sewage that’s full of dangerous bacteria and other biohazards. Rotting animals and other organic wastes may also turn the water into a toxic cocktail.

Floodwaters pick up (and create) debris as they race across the ground, so it’s possible that the receding waters will leave a variety of debris on your worksite. Some of that debris could be sharp or otherwise dangerous, and much of it will pose a trip hazard. Entering flooded areas can also expose workers to electrocution if any live circuits are in contact with the water. Even a slightly damp surface such as a concrete floor can conduct electricity and pose a serious risk.

Insects may also be a problem after flooding. Besides the sheer annoyance of large swarms of flies and mosquitoes, floodwaters may dislodge colonies of fire ants, wasps, and other biting or stinging insects. Most hazards found at jobsites are man made, while others were there before construction began. Those are the ones that fly, crawl and slither.

Insects—Protection from bites and stings is your first defense. Some personal protection measures you can use to avoid getting stung include:

Avoid swatting at flying insects. Instead, gently brush them aside or just wait for them to fly away.

Never wear sweet-smelling colognes and deodorants. Insects are attracted to them.

Avoid wearing bright colored clothing with flowery patterns. Many insects can’t tell the real thing from a manufactured one.

Do not eat in areas where there are insects since many are attracted to food odors.

If you get stung or bitten by any insect, report this immediately to your supervisor that way he can take the proper measurements to clean the infected area. You can reduce any associated pain by applying cold water or ice. Venom from wasp stings has an odor that attracts other wasps, so you may want to take evasive action and move inside the building or inside a room.

Spiders—generally occupy dark, undisturbed sites, and they can occur indoors or outdoors. They thrive in human-altered environments. Indoors, they may be found in attics, basements, crawl spaces, cellars, closets, registers, ductwork, or remodeling jobs. Spiders may be also found underneath logs, loose stones in rock piles, and stacks of lumber.

Animals—Many animals are attracted to shelters and waste dumps, and may carry serious diseases. Infections are a common result, and rabies is a concern in wild animals as well as wandering dogs and cats. Not to long ago we had an employee that had a scratch from a rat while taking his lunch, be aware of the place where you decide to stand, sit or take your break, animals could be around that area. Housekeeping is real important, when you finish eating your lunch, make sure you pick up your trash and disposed properly, leaving trash behind is also a reason why animals are present on the jobsite. First aid for bites and scratches from animals should include cleaning the wound with soap and clean water, applying an antibiotic cream, and then covering it.