Safe Entry and Clean Up at New Orleans

Procedure for Safe Entry and Safe Clean Up Procedures at the New Orleans Hospital


It has been six weeks since the deadly Hurricane Katrina swept through the town of New Orleans, sparing little in its path. One of the major casualties of this natural disaster was the New Orleans Hospital. A team of about thirty people has been sent back to the hospital to re-evaluate the damage caused by the hurricane, so that they may draw up a plan to re-establish the basic medical needs for the workers involved in the recovery effort. In this article, an assessment of the conditions of the health care center will be made. The author will establish the main industrial hygiene concerns in the operation. Thence, an outline of the way the team will be organized, including specific tasks that will be assigned to each member of the team, will be laid out. Moreover, the health precautions, which include personal protective equipment and air monitoring conditions, will also be outlined. The article will then put forth some recommendations that the incident commander may find useful.

Keywords: Industrial hygiene; recovery effort

Procedure for Safe Entry and Safe Clean Up Procedures at the New Orleans Hospital

a)      Main industrial hygiene concerns for clean-up recovery workers

The industrial hygiene hazards in the hospital range from biological to chemical and physical. Some of the biological hazards are caused by the flood waters that have stagnated in the hospital. The stagnant water has brought up a significant sanitation concern (Noji, 2005). This being a temperate country, the number of parasites bred in the stagnated water is, thankfully, restricted. However, there is a risk of bedbugs and other parasites. There is also a variety of bacteria that can breed in the stagnated water. This increases the health risk that arises from such biological hazards substantially. Besides, there were some biological wastes from surgical rooms, which did not get disposed of properly before the hurricane. This increases the risk for pathogenic bacteria inhabiting the site. In addition, the dump environment provides perfect conditions for development of mold, and they have grown in the area in abundance. Molds present potential biological danger because they could cause allergic reactions and have other undesirable effects on human beings (Noji, 2005).

There is also a variety of chemical hazards that prevail in the hospital. Given the fact that there were signs and evidences of intrusion into the pharmacy area, there is a potential risk for the availability of pharmaceuticals in the wrong places. This incredibly increases the risk for chemical hazards. There are those chemicals the risk of which could be increased by skin contact, but more importantly, there are also chemicals the toxicity of which could manifest itself through the air.

Apart from biological and chemical wastes, there are also physical hazard factors. The litter that is strewn all over the place is very likely to have such things as needles, scalpels, scissors and other sharp items that constitute physical hazards. The presence of water is itself a physical hazard because of the possibility of slipping and hurting oneself.  

b)       Hazardous material that might be removed from the facility

Of the hazardous material in the facility, it is possible to remove some and make the place little safer for the recovery workers. First of all, it is possible to pump out water from the basement. This would reduce the possibility of accidents that may result due to slips that are caused by water. Moreover, the infections that may prevail as a result of stagnant water may also be forestalled if the water is pumped out.

Besides, it is also possible to clean up the place and rid it of any sharp objects. The sharps can be picked up meticulously, or strong magnets could be employed. This could, however, prove a little tricky, given the fact that sharp objects could have gathered a lot of dust, and are, thus, insensitive to magnets.

c)      PPE For Recovery Workers

Given the fact that there are several industrial hygiene concerns, it is important that the recovery workers be provided with adequate personal protective equipment. This protective equipment would have to be both for immediate use and for the future.

In order to protect themselves against chemical and physical hazards, the workers would have to wear protective garments such as gloves, gumboots, goggles and water-resistant suits. These would help the recovery workers explore the debris more easily so as to collect and confiscate some of the hazardous material in the facility (Ziegler, et al, 2010).

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d)      Organization And Assignment of Tasks

The team that has been assigned to this task is a structured team with leaders and professionals in various sectors. At the helm of the team, the incident commander would be in charge, overseeing the entire process. Then, below the incident commander, the environmental manager would work to ensure that the environment is made safe for human habitation. He (or she) would have to work hand in hand with the immune-histochemistry specialist and sample collector to ensure that they rid the facility of all types of hazards, starting with those that pose the biggest threat to the health of the recovery workers.

The safety supervisor would be in charge of training the staff on safety procedures and requirements. He (or she) would be instrumental in certifying safety of the facility even after the environmental officer would have played his part in making the working environment safe. Moreover, the safety supervisor would also be useful in inspecting the housing conditions of the recovery workers in the FEMA trailers. He (or she) would have to assess the risk of catching communicable diseases and forestall such possibility.

e)      Delegation of Duties

The duties in this mission would be too many for the few people who are at the top of the supervisory ladder. Delegation of some duties would, therefore, prove a welcome practice. It is, however, important to exercise caution in the delegation process, so that only the tasks that require the least meticulousness get delegated to junior employees.

The inspection of the facility for physical hazards such as sharps and water would comfortably be delegated to one of the junior members of the recovery team. This is because these hazards are easily identified by simple observation. Inspection for biological and chemical hazards, on the other hand, may require the use of tests for verification. This may require professional supervision of senior staff.

f)       Testing Equipment

The team of recovery workers would require a number of high-ended equipment to carry out their functions effectively. This equipment would include both testing and sterilizing equipment (Ziegler et al, 2010). This would include equipment for testing soil samples, the air and even samples of the stagnated water. This includes air samplers, EMF meters, anemometers, gas detectors, GPS Receivers Automotive, humidity meters, lead testing equipment, particle counters and manometers to test the air. To test the soil, such equipment as asbestos-sampling cassettes, soil samplers and sampling pumps would be required. Moreover, equipment for testing water samples such as Wagtech Potatest kit, Oxfam-Delagua kit, analytical filter units and membrane filters should be used as well. 

g)      Air Monitoring

The quality of air would also need to be monitored. This would involve conducting experiments that establish concentration of certain toxins in the air. The air would have to be monitored for potential pollutants in this scenario. Potential pollutants of the air would include viruses, certain metals and gases. Even the vapors of some chemicals are likely to pervade the air, hence the need for monitoring the air.

To monitor the air, such techniques as passive sampling and whole-air sampling may need to be used. This in essence includes measuring the levels of certain chemicals in the air, and the information gained is vital in making the air clean for use by people in the vicinity.

h)      Recommendations to Incident Commander and Other Pertinent Issues

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The conditions under which the New Orleans Hospital will begin to operate in the months after the hurricane are wanting, and the incident commander of the recovery team would have to do a number of things to make the conditions more favorable for recovery workers. The most important steps to be taken are the following:

1)      Carry out a thorough inspection of the place for any materials of hazardous nature, whether chemical, biological or physical. This would be done under the guidance and suggestion of the environmental officer.

2)      Undertake to clear the area of the hazards, industrial or otherwise, depending on the feasibility of the operation.

3)      Make the air and the environment clean for the recovery workers to avoid contracting diseases.

4)      Provide clean water for drinking and for general use.

Besides the recommended steps, the incident would do well to facilitate the expedition of restoring the communication networks. This is because face-to-face communications not only hamper rescue efforts but also put the workers’ lives at risk (Brodie et al, 2006).

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