A large New Orleans Hospital has been affected with a Katrina disaster, which has contributed to evacuation of staffs to Baton Rouge. Six weeks after the event, I have been mandated with the responsibility of supervising a team that will return to the hospital since I am an Industrial Hygienist. This team will also be responsible for evaluating the situation and engaging in a plan to re-establish basic medical needs for the staffs involved in the recovery initiative. While the team comprises various leaders of the hospital, the Incident Commander or person in-charge of recovery is looking for guidance on safe entry, safe clean-up procedures, suitable PPE for all recovery employees, and a hazard assessment for the most crucial items. He also needs an assessment of operations that can contribute to acute or chronic health effects, disease, or illness. This process of supervising the team in the recovery effort and providing guidance to the Incident Commander will require the use of industrial hygiene concepts.
Suggestions and Recommendations to the Incident Commander
As previously mentioned, the Incident Commander is looking for guidance from the industrial hygienist regarding safe-entry, suitable PPE for all recovery staffs, safe clean-up processes, hazard assessment for critical items, and operations that cause health effects. The guidance is vital because such disasters are usually accompanied by septic system collapse, structural destruction, and chemical explosions. The first recommendation to the Incident Commander in handling the recovery and clean-up is to ensure that no one works alone. This helps to ensure that there is another person to rescue the other in case something happens during the recovery or clean-up process. Secondly, each of these workers should be adequately trained on important procedures to take extreme caution when entering the building. Third, they should wear robust shoes since cut feet is the most common injury in the aftermath of a natural disaster or incident. In addition, these individuals should be armed with flash lights and other types of lights when carrying out their operations. Fourth, the clean-up team should be granted HEPA rated respirators during their initial entry to the building. Finally, the windows, floors, doors, and walls should be critically assessed to ensure the safety of the team and experts before the entry of the whole team. It is important for the Incident Commander to work with the organization's managers and supervisors in conducting an assessment of specific conditions at the site and implement safety and health controls based on the OSHA standards (Occupational Safety & Health Administration, 2013).
Industrial Hygiene Concerns
Industrial Hygiene concepts play a crucial role in the process of supervising the recovery team and providing directions to the Incident Commander. This is primarily because industrial hygienists have various responsibilities including identifying, weighing, and assessing workplace hazards and exposures. Upon assessment of the exposures and hazards, these professionals develop and implement programs and procedures to control them (Wagner, 2014, p.29). The first step towards supervising the team for recovery efforts and the clean-up recovery staffs is identification of the main Industrial Hygiene concerns.
Some of the main Industrial Hygiene issues for these teams include safety of the team members, hazardous material spills, standing and moving waters, and dangers of working on wet debris. The safety of the team members is a major issue because working in the aftermath of such a disaster necessitates cautious planning, especially with the hygiene of the place of recovery being a major concern. Since the Katrina disaster involves floods, hazardous material spills and leaks pose environmental concerns and harm to these team members. In contrast, the standing and moving waters from the disaster may hide unprecedented hazards that are harmful to cleanup recovery workers.
Organizing the Team and Assigning Tasks
Organizing the recovery team requires identification of the workload in order to estimate the appropriate number of individuals to be assigned various responsibilities or duties. Once the workload has been determined, the team will be arranged at least two individuals based on the specific task at hand. Each of these pairs or small groups will have a leader who is responsible for mobilizing others towards the accomplishment of their respective duties. Since communication is important in the recovery efforts, each of the small groups will be provided with a radio call for communication and a place for recording their findings. In addition, each of these small groups will be provided with relevant training based on their specific tasks.
The clean-up process basically entails conducting different kinds of tasks for the realization of its goals and objectives. This implies that every small group must be given tasks in a way that ensures their complete safety as well as the safety of the organization. A characterization of the site will be carried out resulting in the classification of potential concerns into different categories such as inorganic materials, biological materials, organic materials, electronic products, and automobile-related products. There will be various groups assigned to handle each of these categories while another group will be responsible for transporting recyclable products.
The allocation of tasks or certain duties to the team members will be dependent on the expertise of the individuals in Occupation Safety and Health as well as Industrial Hygiene. Once the number of roles or workload has been identified, team members will be assigned certain duties according to their knowledge, skills, and abilities to handle them. In addition, highly competent individuals will be assigned the most sensitive duties to enhance the probability of obtaining optimum results. In contrast, the less qualified or competent workers will be given less sensitive duties while working under the guidance of their highly experienced counterparts. This will help in ensuring that none of the team members works alone and in turn lessen the risks involved in the recovery and clean-up process. The effective functioning of each of the team members and small groups will be accomplished through better communication and evaluation by the supervisors.
Necessary PPE for Team Members and Recovery Workers
According to Kilgore (2007), a Katrina disaster not only poses health hazards to the public but also generates numerous health risks to workers engaged in the clean-up effort (p.31). These workers are usually exposed to health risks and hazards if worksite housekeeping is not properly evaluated or worker hygiene strictly controlled or managed. Therefore, workers participating in clean-up processes and recovery efforts need to adopt suitable measures that lessen their exposure to health risks and hazards. One of the measures to lessen exposure to the risks and hazards is the use of Personal Protective Equipment. The necessary PPE for team members and recovery workers include face shields, head hats, work gloves, safety shoes, safety glasses, clean water and disinfectants, and chemical protective gloves. The other necessary PPE for the team and recovery workers include HEPA filters and protective work clothing.
Testing Equipment for Team Members
Wagner (2014) argues that industrial hygienist should use real-time detection systems since they are direct-reading systems that generate instant feedback and results (p.29). These real-time detection systems should be used as part of testing equipment for team members or workers involved in clean-up processes or recovery efforts. However, these systems may not be effective in handling an aftermath of a Katrina disaster since they focus on preventive measures in situations that require daily protection of workers. They require additional testing equipment or system because there are so many equipments required for testing various kinds of materials that can contribute to contamination in the aftermath of the Katrina disaster. Some of the testing equipments required for the team members include gas detectors, soil samplers, lead testing equipment, air samplers, GPS handheld receivers, radiation testers, and humidity meters.
Hazardous Materials to be Removed
The aftermath of the Katrina disaster is characterized with contamination of various things because of the huge presence of chemicals…