Skip to page content
Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
Bookmark and Share

News Release

OSHA News Release: [08/24/2011]
Contact Name: Ted Fitzgerald
Phone Number: (617) 565-2074
Release Number: 11-1260-NEW

US Labor Department's OSHA and Puerto Rico OSHA agencies urge recovery workers and public to guard against hazards during Hurricane Irene cleanup

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — As residents of Puerto Rico recover from damage inflicted by Hurricane Irene, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Puerto Rico's Occupational Safety and Health Administration urge workers and members of the public engaged in hurricane cleanup activities to be aware of the hazards they might encounter and the steps they should take to protect themselves.

"Recovery work should not put you in the hospital," said José A. Carpena, federal OSHA's Puerto Rico area director. "Hurricane recovery work involves a wide range of safety and health hazards, which can be minimized by knowledge, safe work practices and personal protective equipment. Federal OSHA and Puerto Rico OSHA want to make certain that no casualties result from cleanup operations."

Cleanup work can involve restoring electricity, communications, water and sewer services; demolition activities; removal of floodwater from structures; entry into flooded areas; cleaning up debris; tree trimming; structural, roadway, bridge, and dam and levee repair; use of cranes, aerial lifts and other heavy equipment; hazardous waste operations; and emergency response activities.

Inherent hazards may include illness from exposure to contaminated water or food, exposure to the elements and heat stress, downed electrical wires, carbon monoxide and electrical hazards from portable generators, fall and "struck-by" hazards from tree trimming or working at heights, being caught in unprotected excavations or confined spaces, burns, lacerations, musculoskeletal injuries, being struck by traffic or heavy equipment and drowning from being caught in moving water or while removing water from flooded structures.

OSHA maintains a comprehensive website on keeping disaster site workers safe during hurricane cleanup and recovery operations, which is available at http://www.osha.gov/dts/weather/hurricane/. It contains fact sheets, concise "quick cards," frequently asked questions, safety and health guides, and additional information in English and Spanish. Information on protecting oneself against heat stress while working outdoors is available in English at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/ and in Spanish at http://www.osha.gov/SLTC/heatillness/enespanol.html.

Federal OSHA is responsible for federal, postal and maritime workplaces in Puerto Rico, and its Puerto Rico Area Office may be reached at 787-277-1560, with more information online at http://www.osha.gov/oshdir/pr.html. Puerto Rico OSHA is responsible for enforcing safety and health standards for most private and public sector workplaces in Puerto Rico. It can be reached at 787-756-1101, and additional information is available, in Spanish, at http://www.dtrh.gobierno.pr/det_content.asp?cn_id=31.

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees. OSHA's role is to ensure these conditions for America's working men and women by setting and enforcing standards, and providing training, education and assistance. For more information, visit http://www.osha.gov.