Health and safety for clean-up and recovery workers

Pearse, Warwick (2015) Health and safety for clean-up and recovery workers. In The Proceedings of the 9th International Conference of the International Institute for Infrastructure Renewal and Reconstruction (8-10 July 2013), Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane, Australia, pp. 605-619.

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This paper will identify and discuss the major occupational health and safety (OHS) hazards and risks for clean-up and recovery workers. The lessons learned from previous disasters including; the Exxon Valdez oil spill, World Trade Centre (WTC) terrorist attack, Hurricane Katrina and the Deepwater Horizon Gulf of Mexico oil spill will be discussed. The case for an increased level of preparation and planning to mitigate the health risks for clean-up and recovery workers will be presented, based on recurring themes identified in the peer reviewed literature.

There are a number of important issues pertaining to the occupational health and safety of workers who are engaged in clean-up and recovery operations following natural and technological disasters. These workers are often exposed to a wide range of occupational health and safety hazards, some of which may be unknown at the time. It is well established that clean-up and recovery operations involve risks of physical injury, for example, from manual handling, mechanical equipment, extreme temperatures, slips, trips and falls.

In addition to these well established physical injury risks there are now an increasing number of studies which highlight the risks of longer term or chronic health effects arising from clean-up and recovery work. In particular, follow up studies from the Exxon Valdez oil spill, Hurricane Katrina and the World Trade Centre (WTC) terrorism attack have documented the longer term health consequences of these events. These health effects include respiratory symptoms and musculoskeletal disorders, as well as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In large scale operations many of those workers and supervisors involved have not had any specific occupational health and safety (OHS) training and may not have access to the necessary instruction, personal protective equipment or other appropriate equipment, this is especially true when volunteers are used to form part of the clean-up and recovery workforce. In general, first responders are better equipped and trained than clean-up and recovery workers and some of the training approaches used for the traditional first responders would be relevant for clean-up and recovery workers.

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ID Code: 67170
Item Type: Conference Paper
Refereed: Yes
Additional Information: Conference held in July 2013. Proceedings published online March 2015.
Keywords: planning, management, emergency service workers, oil spills, PTSD
ISBN: 9781921897733
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > MEDICAL AND HEALTH SCIENCES (110000) > PUBLIC HEALTH AND HEALTH SERVICES (111700) > Environmental and Occupational Health and Safety (111705)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > Faculty of Health
Current > Schools > School of Public Health & Social Work
Copyright Owner: The author
Deposited On: 12 Feb 2014 04:04
Last Modified: 09 Apr 2015 18:17

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