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What happens if I suffer an accident during disaster cleanup?

Does your employer have a responsibility to keep you from weather-related harm? Although many of us would agree that we cannot control the weather, the federal government dictates that employers are required to protect their workers from workplace accidents related to tornadoes, floods and other severe weather events. This duty extends to workers who are attempting to clean up after a flood or hurricane in New Jersey.

What hazards are associated with flood cleanup? Workers can suffer workplace injuries while helping clean up after a flood or hurricane because they encounter diverse hazards that may not be similar to those they experience every day on the job. These include:

-- Falling tree limbs and debris-- Chemical and biological hazards, including snakes, insects and vermin-- Exposure to mold-- Risk of hypothermia or heat stroke-- Electrical hazards

How can workers advocate for their own protection? Cleanup-related injuries can cause the same outcomes as those experienced in a car accident or other incident. Workers need to know their rights when it comes to workplace protection -- you have the right, for instance, to refuse work if you believe it is too dangerous to continue. Making the right choice when you see a potentially dangerous condition can help you avoid the need for long-term medical care and ongoing medical expenses.

What happens if I get injured during flood cleanup? You have legal rights and options in court. Performing special cleanup duties does not exclude you from the protections provided by Occupational Safety and Health Administration for workers throughout the nation. No matter the nature of your workplace accident, you deserve to receive financial compensation for your ongoing medical costs.

Source: Occupational Safety and Health Administration, "Flood Preparedness and Response," accessed Oct. 20, 2015

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