Online Program

Protecting volunteers in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy and other disasters

Monday, November 4, 2013 : 3:38 p.m. - 3:55 p.m.

John Morawetz, ScM, Center for Worker Health and Safety Education, International Chemical Workers Union Council/UFCW, Cincinnati, OH
Jonathan Rosen, MS, CIH, AJ Rosen & Associates LLC, Schenectady, NY
The U.S. has a long tradition of volunteer service. Volunteers have shown up ready to help after every recent disaster. From national organizations to local ones, many citizens are ready to help. While there are sometimes challenges in doing so, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences has helped train some of these volunteers. These volunteers do a wide range of activities – from helping clean oiled-birds following the Gulf oil spill, to mucking and gutting houses after hurricane sandy. These jobs can be riddled with environmental health and safety hazards, including exposure to mold, asbestos, and confined spaces. Most volunteer organizations provide some level of personal protective equipment (PPE) and/or training. However, of those that provide respirators, few provide the medical examinations and fit testing required under OSHA's respiratory protection standard. While volunteers do not have OSHA coverage, and the organizations may not be required by law to provide such measures, one could argue that it puts these volunteers at risk. This is one of the issues discovered by those involved in disaster response and recovery work that should be addressed by policy-makers in the interest of protecting volunteer workers. Questions remain regarding the definition of volunteer. This presentation will detail the speaker's experiences in both volunteering to do cleanup work, and providing training to volunteers.

Learning Areas:

Occupational health and safety

Learning Objectives:
Describe hazards associated with volunteer cleanup work Discuss policy options that can better protect the health and safety of volunteers

Keyword(s): Environmental Exposures, Training

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have both performed mucking and gutting as a volunteer and trained volunteers in the aftermath of hurricane sandy.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.