Our thoughts go out to everyone who has been affected by the recent storms, flooding, and standing flood water throughout the UK. We regularly publish guidance in respect of snow and ice, and encourage everyone to consider the effects that flooding and flood waters can have upon their school or business as part of emergency arrangements.
Flooding/standing flood water is a very real potential public health issue and we have reported on our twitter feed that local council Environmental Health Officers are very much part of the response team assisting with the clean up. Everyone would like to deal with the clean up as quickly as possible, but we would urge everyone to think about their own safety and the safety of those they engage to assist.
Everyone should assume that flood water is contaminated with sewage – which contains water borne pathogens that can lead to illnesses such as dysentery if ingested. Ensure that if you come into contact with flood water, you wash hands thoroughly before preparing food in particular and observe high standards of personal hygiene. Boots should be rinsed down with fresh water, and remember that pets can also be affected if they lick their fur after coming into contact with flood water. Use disinfectants to clean down articles and equipment that you can practically clean. Discard items that you cannot clean.
The flood water may have swept rubbish and debris into areas of your property or site. There could be items within this that are sharp or otherwise hazardous, so use tools and equipment to move debris where you can, wearing sturdy gloves and overalls.
Care should be taken when using pumps that emit fumes which can lead to deathly carbon monoxide poisoning, especially in spaces with little or no ventilation (such as basements). Carbon monoxide is an odourless gas that replaces the oxygen in the air. It is normally associated with gas appliances that have been poorly maintained.
Flood water can affect electrical systems within buildings; if electrical systems have been exposed to flooding, advice must be sought from a qualified electrician. Do not switch on appliances if you believe that they have been affected by water until you have obtained advice.
Some buildings will contain asbestos. Businesses and schools should refer to their asbestos registers when dealing with collapsed ceilings, or before taking up innocuous looking floor tiles which may have an asbestos content. Lagging around pipes may have come away resulting in exposed fibres. If you know that your property contains asbestos, ensure that an asbestos consultant is engaged who can guide you in a practical manner. They will need to survey the building in order to provide the best advice for the safe removal & disposal of damaged material.
Because of the high amount of rain, buildings that have never had problems before may start experiencing water ingress. Buildings are not air tight, and it is important for everyone to work together as a team to resolve problems which will ensure that normal business or school activities are disrupted as little as possible.
Water spillages on smooth surfaces can lead to slipping hazards, so ensure that you have arrangements in place which include: encouraging people not to shake umbrella’s inside, mats placed inside doorways, and (if necessary) floor surfaces are dry mopped a bit more often.
We always advise our clients (who own or manage property) to ensure they engage a qualified building surveyor to undertake building condition surveys at least every 5 years. In recent news, masonry had fallen from a building opposite Holborn Tube station killing one person and injury several others. Before Christmas, the roof collapse at the Apollo Theatre in London was subject to investigation. Regular building condition surveys are particularly important in stormy weather when water may be penetrating facia leading to an increased potential risk of masonry falling. Regular, structural checks may have to be undertaken more often depending on the age and construction of the building. For this reason, we always recommend that you seek expert advice. We also advise that bolted fixings be regularly checked, especially to signage and flag poles.