Ministry of Labour and Social Partnership Relations

(Labour Department)

Frequently Asked Questions Safe Ash Clean Up

After the recent ash fall from the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, persons across Barbados are engaged in removing accumulated ash from roofs, gutters, windows, and exterior walls.  These tasks usually involve working at heights which can be dangerous.  Falls from certain heights may result in death or serious injury.

Q:  Should I attempt to clean up ash on my own?

A: Before you consider cleaning up ash, ask yourself: “Am I capable of carrying out the task?” and “Do I have the ability to complete the work safely?” If you answer ‘no’ to any of these questions, you should consider requesting assistance from a person with the required skill.

Q:  When working on roofs of homes or other buildings, what should be done?

A:  When working on roofs, you must first be conscious of the gradient.  However:

  • Avoid working at heights if environmental conditions are not favourable. Do not work on roofs in rainy or windy conditions.
  • Tread carefully while walking on ash covered roofs as roof defects may be hidden.

Q: If you can complete the task on your own, what should you consider before getting started?

A:  You should select a safe means of climbing up and down in the area in which you are working.  Options for gaining access include:

  • Ladder – this should be securely attached to the building; be free from damage and should extend approximately 1 metre above the roof’s edge when working on the roof. The feet of step ladders are to be fully extended and spreaders locked.
  • Scaffold – this should be properly erected and free from defects. The working platform should be fully planked.
  • Aerial lift – this should be operated by a trained person and according to the manufacturer’s specification.

Q:  What can I do to protect myself from falling?

A:  You should make use of a body harness and lanyards when working at heights.  Also, to further ensure your safety:

  • Adequate anchor points should be identified and used for securing safety lines or fall protection systems, and
  • Restraint systems should be considered to prevent persons from reaching the edge of the roof.

Q:  How do I determine the method for clearing ash from around my home/other buildings?

A:  You should use the safest methods to clean e.g. “Your situation may require that you wet sweep, dry sweep, shovel or wash down”.  Also,

  • Be reminded that dry sweeping and using vacuums with poor filters can push the ash into the air again.
  • Use the correct tools for the task: shovel/scraper, broom/mop; vacuum with HEPA filters, are examples.

Q:  Are there specific types of personal protective equipment (PPE) for cleaning up ash?

A:  Yes, the appropriate PPE for cleaning up ash includes:

  • Respiratory protection – N95 or equivalent well-fitting face mask.
  • Eye protection – goggles or full-face respirator.
  • Gloves and garments that fully cover the legs and arms.

Q:  What should be done when cleaning up ash using electrically powered equipment?

A: If electrical equipment is used in the clean-up process make sure that the cables or appropriate extension cords are free from defects.  Furthermore,

  • Be aware of trip hazards, such as electrical extensions and hoses in use.
  • Be cautious of sharp object that could damage cables.

Q:  If you are not doing the cleanup yourself but are hiring others, what do you need to consider?

A:  If contractors are hired, steps should be taken to confirm their competence, including the arrangements for occupational safety and health.

Q: Other Considerations?

A: Avoid distractions while working at heights. Avoid the use of mobile devices. Additionally,

  • Non-potable water should be used to wash down, wet or mist areas to be cleaned.
  • Avoid working close to high tension power lines. Clearance of 16 feet or more is necessary.

Q: For further assistance with Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) issues at this time, who should be contacted and how?

A: Contact the Labour Department  of the Ministry of Labour and Social Partnership Relations at the following numbers: 535-1523/24, 826-1513 or email [email protected].


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