Safety for wildfire response/recovery workers
The wildfires raging throughout Southern California right now are taking life, destroying property, and endangering people who are tasked with performing response and recovery operations.
During a wildfire, workers may be caught in circumstances that require them to quickly evacuate. The Ready.gov - Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) website offers guidance on what to do during a wildfire if in a vehicle, in a residence, or out in the open.
Some operations such as utility restoration, cleaning up spills of hazardous materials, and search and rescue, have inherent dangers, and should only be conducted by workers who have the proper training, equipment and experience.
Wildfires may create a variety of hazards for workers involved in cleanup operations as well as for workers in affected communities. OSHA offers the following resources address common hazards associated with wildfires and highlight useful precautions for workers:
- electrical hazards - QuickCard™ | Spanish, Fact Sheet | Spanish
- carbon monoxide poisoning - QuickCard™ | Spanish
- lifting injuries - QuickCard™
- heavy equipment - Activity Sheet
- extreme heat - QuickCard™ | [More...], Fact Sheet | Spanish
- unstable structures - Structural Collapse Alert (NIOSH)
- hazardous materials response - Fact Sheet
- fire - Fact Sheet
- confined spaces - QuickCard™ | Spanish
- worker fatigue - Extended/Unusual Work Shifts Safety and Health Guide
- respiratory protection - QuickCard™ | Spanish
- rodents, snakes and insects - QuickCard™ | Spanish
- downed electrical wires - Fact Sheet
- working outdoors - Fact Sheet
- slips, trips, and falls - Texas Office of Risk Management webpage
Firefighters and other responders may face particularly challenging situations and hazards as they perform their activities. The following resources provide guidance on how responders can protect themselves during response operations:
- Wildfire Response Orientation: Protecting Yourself While Responding to Wildfires. National Institute for Environmental Health and Safety.
- Fires and Wildfires – Worker and Responder Safety. U.S. National Library of Medicine.
- Worker Safety During Fire Cleanup. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- After the Fire: Your Emotional and Physical Well-Being. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Safe Cleanup of Fire Ash. California Department of Health Services and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH.)
- Wildfire Smoke: A Guide for Public Health Officials. California Environmental Protection Agency, Air Resources Board.
- Technical Data Bulletin: PPE and Residential Wildland Fire Cleanup. 3M, Occupational Health and Environmental Safety Division.
- Wildfire Emergency Response Plan. Arizona Department of Health Services.
- Fire Safety Fact Sheet - Wildfires. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).