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12th January 2016

Recovering your business safely after flooding

The HSE have issued guidance on how employers can deal with the widespread flooding at the end of 2015 and into early 2016.

Employers will now be thinking how to safely get the business up and running again, as the waters recede. The HSE have answered the following FAQ’s to help employers get back to business, safely.

How employers can minimise the risks from floodwater?

  • Avoid contact with the floodwater as it may contain sewage and chemicals. However, waterproof boots and rubber gloves should be worn if contact with the water cannot be avoided.
  • Take extra care if you have to go into the floodwater as there may be hidden dangers such as sharp objects, raised manhole covers and pollution.
  • Ensure open cuts and sores are kept clean and use waterproof plasters to cover them.
  • If contact with floodwater is made or you are cleaning up, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.

How employers can dry their premises safely?

  • Avoid using petrol or diesel generators or other similar fuel driven equipment inside, as they can produce poisonous levels of carbon monoxide, which can kill. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
  • When handling or storing petrol or other fuel to use with generators, ensure they are in suitable containers and keep them far away from ignition sources.
  • If you are using portable heaters to dry out the property, ensure there is good ventilation.

What about the electrical safety of the building and any equipment?

  • Do not touch sources of electricity if you are in contact with water as there is a high risk of shocks and burns.
  • If you are concerned that essential electrical equipement may have been damaged by the floods, consider getting it checked. The Electrical Safety Council has electrical safety advice for homes affected by flooding.

How can I clean up my premises?

  • Wear rubber boots, overalls and waterproof gloves during the clean-up.
  • Hoses are useful for washing down. If you are scrubbing or hosing you should wear a suitable protective clothing to protect you from splashes of contaminated water.
  • High pressure hoses may blast contamination into the air and it is recommended that you use appropriate protection for your eyes and face.
  • Do not mix chlorine-based bleaches with other detergents, as this may release hazardous fumes.
  • Remember to wash your hands and all safety clothing, such as goggles, after each clean-up session, this helps to stop bacteria breeding.

What hazards do I need to be aware of when cleaning my premises?

  • Wear suitable protective gloves when handling containers of hazardous chemicals in case they have been damaged during the flooding.
  • If you think chemicals may have leaked during the flooding, take extra care entering any floodwater, especially in enclosed spaces where fumes may build up. Guidance on working with harmful substances is available.
  • Advice on the safety of gas appliances after flooding link to external website can also be found online.
  • If the clean-up involves any work with asbestos, seek advice first.
  • Rats can move after their nests have been flooded, so be careful if you think your premises have been contaminated by rat droppings or urine, as their urine can spread disease. Wash your hands thoroughly with soap and warm water after contact.

Further help is also available on in Winter 2015 floods.  

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