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Disaster Advice
Health Safety
The disaster or fire, water damage scene can be a minefield of both practical risks and legal requirements. Various considerations must be given to known or expected hazards and the control of risk. Many duties exist both by the consumer, contractor and employer. Assessments must be made by people with a broad understanding of the situations or hazards possible. Obviously if you are not aware of a hazard you cannot asses the risk. In the disaster scene many small hazards can be compounded to create a synergistic effect that is many times greater than the individual risk.

The mixture of household chemicals can for example produce toxic gases or vapours. Usually safe materials such as asbestos can become friable or damaged to such an extent that they become airborne and inhale able. It is for these reasons special care must be exercised when inspecting a damage scene. Remember your five senses, coupled to experience or knowledge may be required when making initial inspection and continual monitoring may be required as situations may develop from ongoing works or damage.

Advice

Following personal assessments and equipped with relevant PPE.

Typical health and safety assessments
  • Falling debris
  • Cuts and abrasions needle stick or sharp objects. e.g. carpet gripper, glass
  • Slip, trip or fall
  • Electric shock
  • Gas leaks
  • Biological contamination from floods.
  • Damaged asbestos.
  • Soot inhalation, (toxic dust)
  • Structural collapse
  • Working alone
  • Attached neighbours who may still have electricity ON and pose a risk through adjacent walls.
  • Mould developed after a few days. (see mould section)
  • Biological amplification
Health and safety in domestic properties revolves around a common sense approach to personal safety, however where commercial properties, workplaces or contractors are involved, strict legislation exists which is aimed at protecting all persons on site including visitors and may even include trespassers. The legislation is aimed at protecting any person which may be affected by any circumstance, occurrence or material which could affect their safety or well being and basically revolves around adequate risk and hazard assessments.

Commercial Health and Safety Assessments

These would follow similar guidelines but may include other areas such as:
  • Asbestos log or management records (see asbestos section)
  • Radiation hazards from monitoring equipment e.g. fire detection equipment.
  • Machinery, equipment under load or pressure or stress.
  • Written risk and hazard assessments.
  • Construction Design Management (CDM) compliance).
  • Site toolbox talks to convey information.
  • Dynamic or rolling risk assessments.
  • Ventilation system assessment for spread of contaminants.
  • Secondary effects from damage or spread.
  • Collapse of structure or components.
  • Site Controls
  • Identification of competent contractors
  • Coshh and MDS information

Compliance to various regulations e.g.

  • Health and Safety at Work Act 1974
  • Management of health and safety at work regulations
  • Workplace welfare regulations.
  • Coshh control of substances hazardous to health.
  • Waste disposal regulations.
  • Control of asbestos at work regulations CAWR 2002
  • Asbestos specifically regulation 4 (management)
  • Control of lead regulations
  • Manual handling
  • Management of asbestos at work regulations.(see asbestos section)
  • Contractor competence issues
  • CDM. Construction Design Management
SOP standard operating procedure
The primary task is to ensure that the engaged contractor is competent, and in the forthcoming task with available assets. An initial risk and hazard assessment must be undertaken with proposals for rolling or dynamic assessments to accommodate changes in circumstances. The CAWR asbestos regulations, require asbestos to be presumed in non domestic premises, (exclusions apply) unless adequate proof exists in the form of written evidence which at a later date may be required as evidence. Where doubt exists a thorough assessment must be undertaken usually where sampling is undertaken. Following these assessments a method statement should be provided and where trigger points are reached CDM initiated.
Personal Safety
When faced with a damage scene, the personal well being or health of the individual must be of paramount importance. Homeowners should be aware of simple personal protective measures such as respiratory protection and be aware of ingestion and skin abrasion hazards of biological elements such as bacteria or viral infection. Cuts, grazes can be routes of infection, smoking or eating without washing hands can result in stomach upsets. Where buildings have been wet for a number of days mould may proliferate and may cause allergic reactions.

Simple protection such as rubber gloves and a filter mask are minimum requirements.
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