It is usual for us to start the year with a ‘Hope you have a Prosperous New Year’ greeting and this year is no exception.
Sadly however, some of you may have been affected by the recent flooding either at home or at work or heaven forbid, both.
For those of you who have experienced flooding first hand you will know of the utter devastation that remains once the flood waters have receded and it should be common knowledge that flood water should be considered to be contaminated with sewage, harmful bacteria and other pollutants.
Whilst it is a depressing topic and for some it may be shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted (although every day another area seems to be affected), there are, as you may expect a few key matters we need to flag up that employers need to keep in mind when setting about recovery.
So in no particular order here are a few cautionary pointers – they are summary points only so don’t hesitate to call us if you want some further information.
Health & Safety Issues
Buildings and Structures
- Do not enter a building that has been flooded until the integrity and stability of the structure has been assessed.
- Ensure electric and gas supplies have been isolated.
- Do not use electrical or gas services until they have been checked and are deemed safe.
- When moving damaged stock use trolleys, sack barrows etc.
- When drying out premises do not use petrol or diesel generators or other similar fuel driven equipment inside (unless you can route the exhaust directly outside). They can produce poisonous levels of carbon monoxide, which can kill. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- When handling or storing petrol or other fuel to use with generators, make sure you have suitable containers and keep them away from ignition sources.
- Ensure good ventilation if using portable indoor heaters. Follow the manufacturers’ instructions.
- Repairs, renovations or any construction work will need to meet the requirements of the Construction Design and Management Regulations 2015.
- Check the condition of floors, walls and doors following drying out as there may be some hidden damage that will take time to surface. In particular check all fire doors as they may have lost their protective features.
- Check drains and gutters are clear and in good repair.
- Test fire alarm system and inspect / replace fire extinguishers or other fire fighting equipment as necessary.
- Premises must be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before re-opening.
Plant and Equipment
- Check the integrity of all plant, machinery and equipment from a structural and services point of view.
- Carry out complete guarding checks.
- For those carrying out clean up operations any open wounds must be covered with waterproof dressings.
- Double gloves (rubber / waterproof) to be worn at all times during the clean up.
- Eye protection to be worn to prevent sparks and splashes in the eyes.
- A high standard of personal hygiene to be maintained especially prior to eating or leaving the contaminated site. Provide good hand washing and drying facilities, soap / liquid antibacterial soap.
- Wash hands thoroughly before and after going to the toilet.
- Provide specific training and instruction of the special measures dealing with contaminated water, equipment, documentation, furniture, floor coverings etc. A good toolbox talk is recommended at the start of each day.
- Do not prepare any food or reopen the establishment until the premises have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected.
- Clean all hard surfaces – food preparation areas, surfaces, equipment, glasses, crockery, food containers, beer-lines and optics – with hot, soapy water several times until visually clean, followed by washing down with a food safe disinfectant (disinfectant or sanitiser that meets British Standard EN 1276:1997 or British Standard EN 13697:2001, this information should be found on the label of the product), adhering to manufacturers’ directions. Heavily contaminated items should be disposed of. Note that Dettol is no longer on the on the approved EN list.
- All food that may have been contaminated must be destroyed. Initially this must be double bagged and ideally placed in a sealed container to prevent attracting pests.
- Where canned and unopened packaged foods have been in contact with flood water, they should be disposed of.
- Wooden beer casks which have been in contact with flood waters must be discarded. Metal beer barrels may be able to be used as long as the flood water has not reached any connected outlet or inlet.
- If you become ill or suffer any gastric symptoms following the clean up, please visit your GP as soon as possible. Nobody should handle or prepare food if they are suffering from gastric illness, such as vomiting or diarrhoea.
- If you have any queries or feel you have cause to be concerned about the quality of your water supply, please contact your suppliers directly.
- If you have a private water supply, ensure your water treatment specialists are called in to check that the purification plant is working as it should and the supply is not contaminated.
- If you have any storage tanks then confirm that these tanks have not been contaminated by flood water. Any taps which have been submerged in contaminated flood water should be cleaned using a bleach solution and run for 5 minutes prior to the water being used.
- If you have suffered power cuts don’t assume the refrigerated or frozen stock will have been kept at their required temperatures.
- If you are unable to keep high risk food under adequate temperature control, dispose of it.
- The flood water may have disturbed rodents which could have entered your premises and caused damage to electrical wiring and furniture. If there is a problem, a pest control contractor should be engaged.
- Once you have completed the work required and your premises are ready to reopen for business you must ensure it complies with Food and Health & Safety standards.
Employment / HR
- Employees may have to be redeployed onto other activities or other sites. Check that your Contracts of Employment allow you to do this.
- If you have no work for employees then you need to consider if temporary lay-offs or redundancies are likely. Again, check your Contracts of Employment and take advice as specific procedures should be followed to ensure current employment legislation is complied with.
- Contact your broker / insurer immediately and do not dispose of damaged goods until you have the insurers consent. Your broker should provide appropriate guidance on these points.
- Take photographs of all damaged goods / stock which you plan to dispose of.
- Is it up to you to make sure your insurer has been informed and a claim lodged.
In all cases the employers are urged to take as much professional advice as you can – it will help you through one of the worst experiences you have to confront.
Sentient clients with ongoing advisory services with us can of course call us 24/7 for advice on the above matters as part of their services we provide for them.
If you want further details on this, please do not hesitate to contact us.