142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition

Annual Meeting Recordings are now available for purchase

Occupational health issues among non-traditional response workers following Hurricane Sandy

142nd APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition (November 15 - November 19, 2014): http://www.apha.org/events-and-meetings/annual
Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Michael J. Reilly, DrPH, MPH , Center for Disaster Medicine, New York Medical College, Valhalla, NY
Background: In New York City, mold damage and other flood-related contamination has been a significant concern among the public, homeowners, and public health agencies following Hurricane Sandy. Following the storm, lay persons, who had no previous experience remediating homes with damage from environmental hazards, began ad hoc reparations to residential buildings and were exposed to mold, asbestos and other environmental contaminants. 

Methods: A field survey of 400 homeowners and volunteers who performed mold remediation activities and participated in NYC Department of Health sponsored worker safety training programs, was administered to determine possible exposures and health effects.  In addition, 400 homeowners and volunteers who performed remediation activities but received no worker safety training were also surveyed and compared.

Results:  As this research is ongoing, we anticipate the identification of certain patterns of illness, consistent with exposure to indoor air irritants, such as mold.  We expect the rates of self-reported illness to be less among volunteers in general, as well as the group that received worker safety training and protective equipment from the NYC Department of Health.

Conclusions:  Effective just-in-time worker safety training programs for non-traditional responders to disasters, including “do-it-yourself” homeowners, and volunteers, may reduce the rates of occupational illness and injury in this population.  Health departments should create materials for occupational health and safety just-in-time training programs prior to disasters that involve widespread exposure to environmental stressors.

Learning Areas:

Administer health education strategies, interventions and programs
Assessment of individual and community needs for health education
Environmental health sciences
Occupational health and safety

Learning Objectives:
Describe the non-traditional response workforce in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. Discuss the unique challenges of monitoring and ensuring worker health and safety among “lay” response workers. Identify public health interventions that may be implemented to minimize injury and illness among non-traditional responders following a natural disaster.

Keyword(s): Disasters, Occupational Health and Safety

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am on the faculty at 2 schools of public health in the department of environmental health sciences, where I teach graduate courses on occupational health and safety issues. Additionally, I am the principal investigator of a CDC/NIOSH sponsored research study investigating the health effects of environmental hazards on response workers during 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.