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Flood preparation: Protect workers before, during and after

April 9, 2019
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You may have already seen the forecast: It’s going to be a wet spring in Colorado. Above-normal precipitation in April and May combined with melting from winter’s higher-than-average snowpack will increase the risk of floods.

Floods can cause serious damage. While a few inches of water doesn’t seem like much, it can knock you down. Flash floods often occur without warning in densely populated areas.

Keeping your employees safe during a flood requires preparation and readiness. Follow this guide to get them safely through a flood.

Common flooding hazards

Floods come on quickly. A narrow creek can rise from six inches to 10 feet in under an hour. Knowing your risk for flooding can assist with planning. Keep these hazards in mind:

  • Heavy rain, ice, levy or damn failure, snow melt and debris jams contribute to flash floods.
  • Rapid runoff occurs on steep, mountainous or hilly terrain.
  • Urban, rocky or burn-scarred terrain floods faster because little water seeps into rocks, clay soil, concrete or asphalt.

Preparing for a flood

You can implement these steps right now:

  • Prepare personal protective equipment for workers, such as heavy-duty gloves and goggles.
  • Make an evacuation plan (this tool can help) and practice it regularly.
  • Establish an emergency chain of command.
  • Determine a way to track workers’ locations during the flood.
  • Have food and water available for those employees who may have to stay at work during a flood.

Once you get a flood alert:

  • Use FEMA tools to gather more information.
  • Place important documents in waterproof boxes.
  • Tell employees to keep their medications with them in case they become stuck at work.

During a flood

Take shelter during the flood. Stay up to date on flood warnings and advisories through your phone, radio or TV. Tell your employees to:

  • Stay away from bridges, basements, parking garages and areas prone to flooding.
  • Never drive, walk or swim through flood waters.
  • Avoid downed electrical lines.
  • Turn off power at the main breaker if water nears the circuits.
  • Practice proper form to avoid injury when lifting sandbags, which many people use to erect barriers to keep out water.

After a flood: Precautions for emergency crews

Emergency crews performing recovery efforts after a flood expose themselves to waterborne illnesses, electrical hazards, thermal stress and fatigue as well as a risk of drowning. Crew members should never work alone near flood waters. Other best practices include:

  • Move upwind of activities that generate concrete, brick or stone dust in order to avoid breathing in crystalline silica.
  • Stay out of buildings where flooding has caused extensive mold or structural weakness.
  • Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water before eating, applying lip balm, smoking or doing anything mouth-related.
  • Decontaminate rain boots and gear exposed to flood waters.
  • Use gas-powered generators outdoors only in order to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • Wear layers to guard against hypothermia.

After a flood: Precautions for non-emergency employees    

Flood hazards don’t end when the rain stops. Continue to take post-flood precautions such as:

  • Ventilate work areas to prevent mold growth.
  • Throw away mold-damaged materials and disinfect wet items with a bleach-water mixture.
  • Employ goggles and gloves when handling anything that touched flood waters.
  • Guard against hearing damage by providing earplugs to employees located close to loud cleanup equipment such as blowers or chainsaws.
  • Wear long pants and long sleeves when near standing flood water, which can attract mosquitoes carrying West Nile Virus.
  • Do not drive in emergencies until authorities say it’s safe.

By following these tips, you can lower your workplace risk and focus on safety during a flood. Questions? Contact us at safetyoncall@pinnacol.com.


Pinnacol Assurance assumes no responsibility for management or control of customer safety activities. Please ensure your business meets the requirements of all federal, state, and local laws, regulations, or ordinances related to workplace safety.

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