Publication to protect disaster relief workers released on anniversary
Coinciding with the anniversary of 9/11, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health announced the release of the document. The goal is to protect emergency workers from risks inherent in the work.
"Response work can range from well-contained, localized efforts to massive, diffuse mobilizations and involves a broad array of activities, including search, rescue, investigations, assessment, recovery, cleanup, and restoration," NIOSH said. "Such work is carried out by individuals from emergency management, fire services, law enforcement, emergency medical services, public health, construction and other skilled support, disaster relief, mental health, and volunteer organizations."
The publication includes recommendations and tools for use before, during, and after a response. The intent is to identify exposures and/or signs and symptoms early in the course of an emergency response, NIOSH said. "Early detection can prevent or mitigate adverse physical and psychological outcomes, helping to ensure that workers and volunteers are not harmed in the course of their response and are able to maintain their ability to respond effectively."
The approach to addressing the public health measures include:
- Medical screening that focuses on assessment of fitness and ability to safely and effectively deploy on a response.
- Training regarding hazards to be anticipated and protective measures to mitigate them.
- Approaches to centralized tracking or rostering of responders.
- Surveillance and monitoring for exposures and adverse health effects, including supporting efforts in environmental monitoring and assessment.
- Out-processing assessments on completion of response duties and deployments.
- Follow-up or long-term surveillance or monitoring for potential delayed or long-term adverse effects of the deployment experience.
There are also steps to implement the protections.
NIOSH convened a panel of representatives from federal agencies, state health departments, and volunteer responder groups to address what it said is the "continuing need for health monitoring and surveillance for emergency response workers."
The document "is intended to address all aspects of protecting emergency responders and should be applicable over the full range of emergency types and settings," NIOSH said. "It is intended to be of use to all those involved in the deployment and protection of emergency responders, including incident management leadership; leadership of response organizations; health, safety, and medical personnel; and the workers themselves."
A companion document, Emergency Responder Health Monitoring and Surveillance: A Guide for Key Decision Makers, is available as well.
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October 15, 2012
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