With storms, cyclones and flooding a real risk to Queensland at this time of year, businesses should have plans in place to be able to clean up safely after wild weather.
Industrial Relations Minister Grace Grace said one of the costliest clean-up bills in the aftermath of a big storm could come from people using high pressure water blasters to clean asbestos roofs and fences.
“In June 2019, two people using a high-pressure water blaster on a corrugated asbestos cement roof (super six roof) spread asbestos contaminated dust and debris over neighbouring properties,” Ms Grace said.
“Workplace Health and Safety Queensland took immediate action against the contractor, requiring him to pay for the site to be properly cleaned at a cost of $13,000.”
Ms Grace said that apart from asbestos issues, summer storms can bring other risks to your workers.
“Electrical safety must be top of mind if your worksite has flooded – you cannot assume the power is off.
“Stay well away from the switchboard if it's been damaged by water – and warn others to do the same.
“Generators should only be used to power essential equipment – run them outside and don't connect them to the property unless you have had a changeover switch with the right generator socket fitted.
“Any appliances or electrical equipment that have been submerged must be checked by a licensed contractor before you try to use them. It's just not worth the risk.”
Ms Grace said that those in charge of volunteers helping clean-up and recovery efforts have duties under state laws to keep them safe too.
“Local councils or employers co-ordinating clean-up or recovery activities must assess the potential for hazardous conditions and should provide volunteers with the information, training, supervision and equipment to work safely. This includes managing fatigue and heat stress, as people can easily forget to look out for themselves when they're caught up in the drama of the situation.”
Ms Grace said flooding also increased the risk of chemical and biological hazards, such as waterborne diseases.
“Always decontaminate clothing and equipment after handling chemicals,” Ms Grace said.
“To minimise the risk of biological hazards, maintain good hand and personal hygiene, clean and cover cuts and wounds. If contact with flood water and mud is unavoidable, wear enclosed footwear, gloves and suitable clothing.
“Environmental conditions after storms and floods increase the risk of infectious diseases, with skin infections, diarrhoea, respiratory infections and mosquito-borne diseases the most common.
“Less commonly, contact with floodwater can cause serious illness such as leptospirosis and melioidosis.
More information about storm and flood recovery is at worksafe.qld.gov.au.