Michael Courouleau is an environmental and safety professional with extensive experience in industrial safety.
Q: We’ve come a long way as far as workplace safety. What are some areas that people might still neglect?
Michael Courouleau: Accidents during disaster recovery are still very common.
Q: What special hazards does a disaster recovery situation present?
Michael Courouleau: Electrical dangers, collapse or partial collapse of compromised buildings, stress and overwork from trying to get a facility reopened as quickly as possible.
Q: Do floodwaters present a special set of dangers?
Michael Courouleau: Absolutely. Floodwaters are contaminated to start with, making the threat of infection pretty extreme.
Q: What precautions should workers and crews take in post-hurricane situations?
Michael Courouleau: Supervisors should be mindful of not taking shortcuts or getting in too big a hurry. That’s how injuries happen. Crews should be very wary of flooded buildings in terms of structural safety and electrical hazards.
Q: Are floodwaters breeding grounds for insects?
Michael Courouleau: Yes, crews should be careful of not only mosquito bites, but also snakebites and even leeches in flooding situations.
Q: What’s another seldom-thought-of danger in the workplace?
Michael Courouleau: Combustible dust is a huge danger in places like grain elevators.
Q: What can be done about it?
Michael Courouleau: Ventilation, water mist setups, sprinklers, airborne dust density monitoring and fire suppression setups are all very important.
Q: What kinds of materials can become combustible dust, in the right concentrations?
Michael Courouleau: Flour, grain dust, sawdust, sugar, sugar byproducts, tobacco, metal shavings, even dried blood can be potentially hazardous combustible dust.
Q: What are the points in the process where combustible dust can be found in greater concentrations?
Michael Courouleau: Places like loading and unloading points or transfer points will typically stir up more airborne particles.
Q: What sorts of systems should be in place at those points?
Michael Courouleau: Air monitors are typically used there, keeping tabs on airborne dust and sending readings back to a control console.
Q: How do those work?
Michael Courouleau: When densities reach a certain point, water mist systems will kick on to reduce the concentration. Some systems will even automatically shut down machinery to give dust time to settle.
Q: Aren’t there ignition sources as well?
Michael Courouleau: Yes, there’s a special set of precautions to be taken with things like motors and switches.
Q: Can static electricity be an ignition source?
Michael Courouleau: Yes, natural fibers should be worn in these settings.
Q: What is a general piece of advice you can give?
Michael Courouleau: Remember that knowledge is power when it comes to safety in the workplace. Educate your workforce on safety protocols, keep MSDS sheets available, and offer incentives for workplace safety.