21 February 2014

Although this winter's floods will inevitably slip from the headlines, business owners will be dealing with the after-affects for many months and Public Health England (PHE) is warning that they and their staff could be at danger.

An executive agency of the Department of Health, PHE has taken to the radio with a series of adverts giving health advice on cleaning up safely after flooding. These can be heard at http://bit.ly/1bOD68d.

Just as homeowners are facing the sad task of returning to their homes to begin assessing the task ahead, so business employees are having to go back to flooded shops and offices as they try to recover from the recent disastrous events.

One thing they must not do, PHE has warned, is install petrol or diesel generators inside premises, as the exhaust fumes contain carbon monoxide which can kill.

The adverts also highlight the potential dangers in the floodwaters themselves which will almost certainly be contaminated with bacteria that can cause infections with symptoms of diarrhoea, fever or abdominal pain.

Any organisation involving its staff in clean-up operations should ensure that they are provided with the right clothing — including rubber boots and waterproof gloves — and that they have the opportunity to thoroughly wash their hands with warm soapy water after each clean-up session.

Dr Paul Cosford, PHE's director for health protection, said: "Over the past few months PHE staff across our regions and centres have been working closely with local responders to ensure communities affected by the flooding have the information they need about how they can reduce risk of illness or harm."

PHE has made a number of guides available at http://bit.ly/19sFEaF including a factsheet offering general information about mental health problems following floods.

From Paul Clarke, business writer for Croner