8 Ways Workers Can Guard Against Illness During Flood Cleanup

During hurricane season, the flooding that occurs is not only a hazard to those owning businesses or homes affected by water damage, but also to workers engaged in cleanup efforts. These workers are at increased risk of health issues from direct and sustained exposure to materials contaminated with mold and/or fungus. To guard against respiratory illness and other hazards, use these tips from OSHA's Fact Sheet on flood cleanup:

  1. Avoid breathing dust (fungal spores) generated by moldy building materials, crops, and other materials.
  2. Consider using an N-95 NIOSH-approved disposable respirator as a minimum when working with moldy or damp hay, grain, compost, or building materials. Respirator protection must be used in accordance with OSHA’s Respiratory Protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134, Appendix D).
  3. Consider discarding all water damaged materials. Articles that are visibly contaminated with mold should be discarded. When in doubt, throw it out.
  4. Surfaces that have a light covering of mold should be scrubbed with warm, soapy water and rinsed with a disinfectant made of 1/2 cup liquid household bleach mixed into one gallon of water.
  5. CAUTION: Do not mix bleach with other cleaning products that contain ammonia.
  6. After working with mold-contaminated materials, wash thoroughly, including the hair, scalp, and nails.
  7. If the safety of food or beverage is questionable, throw it out. Only drink safe drinking water that has been bottled, boiled, or treated until there is confirmation that the community water supply is safe for consumption.