Work conditions change drastically after hurricanes, especially those as large and destructive as Ian continues to be. Not downgraded to a Topical Storm, Ian made landfall in Florida yesterday as a strong Category 4 hurricane, bringing with it high winds near 150 mph, a dangerous storm surge, and multiple tornadoes.

After the storm clears its path through multiple states, response and recovery work will begin. These workers will face such challenges as downed power lines, downed trees, fires, and high volumes of construction debris.

For these efforts, personal protective equipment (PPE) and gear is vital, and it must be carefully and appropriately selected for the hazard and level of exposure workers will face.

ISEA and OSHA recommend the following guidelines when selecting and using appropriate PPE:

    1. Assess the workplace hazards, select PPE that will protect workers from these hazards, and ensure that workers use the PPE selected.
    2. Ensure PPE is properly fitted to the worker.
    3. Train workers in the use, operation, and limitations of equipment, as well as how to put on and remove the equipment properly (i.e., donning and doffing techniques).
    4. Inspect equipment before each use and repair or replace as needed.
    5. Maintain and store PPE in a clean and sanitary manner.
    6. Maintain adequate supplies for timely replacement of lost, worn, or broken PPE.

PPE Recommended Hurricane Response:

  • High-visibility apparel: High-visibility safety apparel and headwear compliant with ANSI/ISEA 107-2020, along with other traffic safety measures, in areas where vehicles or heavy equipment are used. This is especially important when working in temporary roadway work zones.
  • Foot protection: ANSI-approved protective footwear for the activity being performed. Give special consideration to water protection in wet or flooded areas.
  • Eye and face protection: ISEA/ANSI-approved safety glasses with side shields, goggles, full-face shields, or other suitable protection as needed to protect against flying objects and liquid splash hazards.
  • Appropriate work clothing: Clothing appropriate for protecting individuals from hazards in the general work environment that may cause cuts, abrasions, irritation, or overexposure to sunlight. Consideration should be given to heat and cold stress issues. ISEA/ANSI-approved protective apparel for jobs that require a limited-use and disposable coverall.
  • Hand protection: ANSI/ISEA-approved gloves appropriate and suitable for the tasks being performed (balancing dexterity with protection). Considerations include biological hazards (bloodborne pathogens), chemical hazards, and physical hazards (abrasions, cuts, punctures, and heat). Vibration-dampening gloves should be used when vibration hazards exist (e.g., during jackhammer use).
  • Fall and Dopped Objects protection: Lanyards, harnesses, supports for fall protection, and ANSI/ISEA-approved solutions to prevent dropped object incidents.
  • Leg protection: Snake boots or snake gaiters to protect against snakebites in areas where snakes are indigenous. Chaps when using chain saws.
  • Respiratory protection: The mandatory use of respirators requires compliance with the OSHA respiratory protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134). Voluntary use of respirators must conform to Appendix D of 29 CFR 1910.134.Please note, surgical masks and dust masks that are not NIOSH-approved are not considered suitable respiratory protective devices.
  • Hearing protection: Workers should wear earmuffs and/or earplugs when working around potential noise sources. Hearing protection must be worn when noise levels exceed 90 dBA, and should be worn when noise levels exceed 85 dBa.A useful “rule of thumb:” if you cannot hold a conversation in a normal speaking voice with a person who is standing at arm’s length (approximately 3 feet), the noise level is too loud.

Specialized PPE ensembles and procedures are required for protecting workers involved in activities that expose them to other hazards for which additional protection and procedures are needed (e.g., structural firefighting, confined-space entry, response to hazardous materials releases, asbestos abatement, lead abatement, welding, cutting, and burning). Evaluate working conditions, provide any additional training to address the hazard, and assign appropriate PPE in accordance with applicable standards (e.g., OSHA, NFPA).

Assess The Risks

OSHA offers a Hazard Exposure and Risk Assessment Matrix that provides information on many of the most common and significant additional hazards that response and recovery workers might encounter when working in an area recently devastated by a hurricane.

This Matrix highlights a number of tasks and operations associated with disaster response and recovery. The Matrix is designed to help employers make decisions during their risk assessment that will protect their workers working in hurricane-impacted areas.