Flooding recovery recommendations
Flooding can create life-threatening hazards. These recommendations address the risks and safety measures you can take.
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Heavy rains and/or melting snow and ice can cause lowland flooding. This can affect workplaces in lower levels of buildings, basements of workplaces and homes.
Workers involved in clean-up and recovery activities will face hazards and employers have a duty to protect employees from these hazards, as well as provide those workers with appropriate information, instruction and supervision to protect their health or safety.
Inherent hazards of flooding may include:
- contaminated water or food
- the elements (harsh weather)
- conditions that could induce heat stress
- downed electrical wires
- carbon monoxide
- electrical hazards from portable generators
Other hazards may include:
- falls and being struck by objects while tree trimming or working at heights
- being caught in unprotected excavations or confined spaces
- musculoskeletal injuries
- being struck by traffic or heavy equipment
- drowning from being caught in moving water or while removing water from flooded structures
Electrical equipment that is in contact with water could cause potential serious electrocution hazards.
Cleaning and using water-damaged appliances also carry safety risks.
Response and recovery
Response and recovery work in flooded areas presents hazards that must be properly identified, evaluated and controlled to reduce or eliminate occupational health and safety risks to response-and-recovery workers.
Response-and-recovery workers in flooded areas encounter hazards ranging from potential contact with live electrical equipment to chemical exposures.
After a flood, it is important that homes and commercial premises be restored as soon as possible to protect your health and prevent further damage to the building and its contents. Flooding may not only damage the structure of a building, but the flood water can also contain sewage, particularly in rural areas, that may pose a serious health hazard.
We urge anyone engaged in clean-up activities to be aware of the hazards they might encounter and the necessary steps they should take to protect themselves.
Electrical safety measures
Safety measures for response and recover workers facing electrical hazards include:
- Never step into a flooded basement or other room if water may be in contact with electrical outlets, appliances or cords.
- Never attempt to turn off power at the breaker box if you must stand in water to do so.
- If you can’t reach a breaker box safely, call the electric utility to shut off power at the meter.
- Never use electric appliances or touch electric wires, switches or fuses when you’re wet or standing in water.
Flooding recovery recommendations
Protective measures for response and recovery workers should involve:
- evaluating the work area for all hazards
- task-specific hazard exposure monitoring
- using engineering or work practice controls to mitigate hazards
- using personal protective equipment
- assuming all power lines to be energized
- following proper hygiene procedures
- correctly using portable generators, saws, ladders, vehicles and other equipment
- using proper precautions in traffic work zones
Employers should seek the assistance of their health and safety association(s) if they need help in complying with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and its regulations. For external assistance in developing occupational health and safety policies and programs, you may contact the appropriate health and safety association.
- Stormy weather | Electrical Safety Authority
- Keeping food and water safe after a flood | Ministry of Health
- Emergency planning | Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety
- Natural disasters and severe weather | Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Flood and hurricane cleanup and safety | CDC
This resource does not replace the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and its regulations and should not be used as or considered legal advice. Health and safety inspectors apply and enforce these laws based on the facts they find in the workplace.
We have included links to other websites, but this does not mean that we endorse their information as compliant with the OHSA or its regulations.