Safety First, or Safety Last

Implementing Job Site Analyses into Every Project.

There is no question we work in an industry where hazards on the job site are common­place. We as restoration professionals should keep safety on the top of minds; if it is not, the rami­fications can be costly.

Communication and training of job site hazards must be ongoing and should be incorporated into your culture. At the beginning of each project, we perform a Job Site Analysis (JSA); if the project changes, the Job Site Analysis (JSA) is revised.

A JSA is a systematic procedure that breaks down each job/task into key training sequences, identifies safety elements of each task, and coaches the em­ployees on how to avoid potential hazards. Hazards of all sizes inherently have risks, both physical and mental, minor to catastrophic. These hazards need to be documented and discussed as to how they will be addressed to minimize risk. The hierarchy of con­trols in order of preference are elimination, substitu­tion, engineering, administration or work practices, and lastly, use of personal protective equipment.

The Standards, which we are quick to reference, have a section dedicated to safety and health. The ANSI/IICRC S500 states, “Restorers shall understand the laws and regulations related to health and safety for the particular country or locale in which they work. Although there are few specific federal, state, provincial, and local laws and regulations directly related to water damage restoration and microbial remediation, there are safety and health regulations applicable to businesses that perform such work. Federal safety and health regulations in the United States that can impact the employees of a restoration business include, but are not limited to, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) Standards found in Title 29 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) parts 1910 and 1926:” i

In addition to the S500, the ANSI/IICRC S540 Standard for Trauma and Crime Scene Cleanup (section 5), ANSI/IICRC S520 – Mold Remediation -Third Edition: 2015 (section 8), and ANSI/IICRC S100: 2021 Standard for Professional Cleaning of Textile Floor Coverings (section 9), all have sec­tions for safety and health. Safety is an integral part of our best practices.

A short list of dangers on a project can include: mold, noise levels, heat, asbestos, lead paint, silica dust, nuisance dust, O3, electrical, trip, slip, fall, strain, off gassing, contaminated water, snakes, bugs, critters of all types, biohazards, confined spaces, working on elevated platforms, ladders, scaffolding, oxygen deficiency, chemical exposure, and more.

Often, some of these risks are ignored due to lack of understanding, or because it is easier to not follow proper procedures or laws. We get push back from testing for lead-based paint or asbestos, saying it is not covered or not needed. Remember, it is the law to provide a workplace free from recognized haz­ards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm. It is our job to recognize these hazards and reduce the possible exposure.

Fire and smoke projects have unseen hazards, in the form of dioxins, which may be present while performing inspections. Unseen hazards should not be ignored. Donning the proper personal protective equipment (PPE) while performing inspections on sewage, mold and fire losses should be common place.

In a recent industry article, Sean Scott wrote, “‘Not only is this substance extremely toxic to all life, it is also known to the World Health Organization as a member of the so-called ‘Dirty Dozen’ – a group of dangerous chemicals also referred to as persistent organic pollutants or ‘POPs’.” ii

These are dangers I do not want to take home with me to my family, but the off gassing after the fire is something we as an industry do not acknowledge.

In a recent news article, a crew left two portable generators running within a three-story apartment complex; one on an open balcony and one, inside a unit. iii Training would have prevented two tenants being sent to the hospital and multiple others being treated by the Tampa Fire Rescue team for carbon monoxide exposure.

OSHA Act of 1970 makes it clear that employers are required to provide a workplace free from seri­ous recognized hazards for all employees.

SEC. 5. Duties
Each employer -­

  1. Shall furnish to each of his employees’ em­ployment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees
  2. Shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.
  3. Each employee shall comply with occupation­al safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct. iv

Turning Words into Action

How can we create a culture of safety in the resto­ration industry? By making awareness and commu­nication of safety your top priority; training, train­ing, and more training. Offer courses applicable to the job the employees are doing.

Document and communicate the safety guidelines. Get workers involved and invested; no one wants to take something home with them and hurt their family.

Hold everyone accountable and praise the good, correct the bad. Conduct your daily site inspections; update your JSA; and have your safety meetings daily.

Lead by example: don and doff the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) when entering a job site. Our actions speak louder than words. Do not minimize the risk because someone else does not know the risks; help educate them, and have extra personal protective equipment (PPE) for the adjust­ers or property owner if they have none.

If safety is not first, it might as well be last. A JSA is just as important as a work authorization. Daily toolbox talks are a way to reinforce safety basics and bring focus to the risks and to inform the crews and building occupants about risks on the job site.


i ANSI/IICRC2021 Section 8.1




David Watts

David Watts holds the IICRC Designation for Master Textile Cleaner, Master Fire and Smoke Restorer, in addition to Master Water Restorer. David is currently working on his advanced designations from the RIA and currently holds the Fire Loss Specialist certification. David joined the restoration industry in 2004 and he has grown increasingly passionate about all aspects of the industry and ongoing training. He also had the honor of receiving the RIA Phoenix Award in 2020.

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