13 January 2016

One aspect of the current spate of floods affecting the North of England and Scotland that has been regularly mentioned by those most badly affected has been the sheer speed with which water has inundated their homes and premises.

When breaches of flood defences occur, it can already be too late to start trying to save stock or equipment, so the advice to business owners, as to householders, is to have a contingency plan in place.

The TUC has reminded employers that, if the worst happens, they have a legal duty to ensure that the health and safety of all their employees is protected. It has, therefore, issued an advice leaflet, on health and safety in the aftermath of flooding.

"It is not," the TUC said, "in anyone’s interests to ask workers to risk their lives or health either during the floods themselves, or in the aftermath."

Under no circumstances, the guide insists, should an employer ask anyone to travel in a flooded area unless they are part of the emergency services, have been trained in how to deal with such situations and have full support and back-up.

No-one should be expected to work in buildings that are flooded, particularly where the gas and electricity supply has been lost or has had to be turned off.

"While unions will want to make sure that everyone pulls together," the TUC continues, "staff should not be put at unnecessary risk and no building should be re-occupied until it has been properly inspected and a risk assessment undertaken."

It makes clear that, in extreme cases, the structure of the building will need to be checked before anyone is allowed in. If any staff are involved in the clean up, there should be a risk assessment and they should be provided with proper personal protective equipment.