NIOSH gives safety guide for flooded farms

Published on January 30, 2019

Floodwaters on and around farms can sicken people with pathogens and chemical contaminants, and they can hide physical dangers.

People working on or near inundated farms can learn how to reduce the risks from manure, pesticides, cleaning agents, downed power lines, and barbed-wire fences, among other hazards, with guidance from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Department of Agriculture. View the PDF document, "Interim guidance for protecting workers from livestock and poultry wastewater and sludge during and after floods".

It describes infectious diseases associated with swine and poultry, symptoms in humans, and potential sources of harmful chemicals, as well as recommendations on immunizations, personal protective equipment, hygiene, work in confined spaces, animal handling, and carcass disposal.

In an Oct. 15 post on the NIOSH Science Blog, Capt. Lisa Delaney, associate director for Emergency Preparedness and Response, wrote that NIOSH already had guidance for storm, flood, and hurricane responses. But the September 2018 deluge from Hurricane Florence in areas with livestock production showed the need to address the unique problems when floodwaters mix with animal wastewater and sludge.

Florence brought the Carolinas 20-30 inches of rainfall and a storm surge of 9-13 feet, with catastrophic flooding, according to the National Weather Service.

CDC spokeswoman Nura Sadeghpour provided a statement that said the agency has no information on how often people are injured or sickened during emergencies on farms, livestock production sites, or processing plants.

NIOSH provides other guidance documents for storm, flood, and hurricane response such as information for health care workers, animal shelter workers, and those working with hazardous materials.