Floods and other natural disasters

Information for employers and employees about what to do before, during and after a natural disaster.


Staying safe

During and after heavy rainfall events, many parts of Victoria are subject to flood conditions. Your safety is important – you should always:

  • listen to your local radio station for further warnings and advice
  • keep an eye out for any fallen or dangerous trees or powerlines
  • stay away from electrical signs, streetlights, electrical cables or other conductive material
  • do not touch switchboards if they have been damaged by water
  • do not do your own electrical work – it is illegal and dangerous

As an employee, if you are planning to work or travel to work in an area that’s impacted by flooding, assess the potential for hazardous conditions and what you can do to mitigate that risk.

As an employer, you must reduce the risk of death, injury and illness to yourself, your employees and others (including volunteers) involved in clean-up and recovery activities.

Information about managing hazards and risks


Asbestos-containing materials may be found during the clean-up of buildings damaged by floods.

When asbestos containing products are damaged, small fibres may be released into the air. These fibres are harmful if inhaled and may lead to asbestos-related diseases such as asbestosis, lung cancer or mesothelioma.

WorkSafe Victoria always recommends that a licensed asbestos removalist is used to remove any amount of asbestos.

Find a licenced asbestos removalist

Biological hazards

Employees involved in storm and flood recovery work should maintain good personal hygiene. You should always:

  • wash your hands after contact with mud, flood water and contaminated items and equipment
  • wear enclosed footwear, protective eyewear, gloves, and suitable clothing
  • take precautions to avoid mosquito bites
  • clean and cover cuts and wounds

Hazardous substances

Storms and floods can bury, move, or damage hazardous substance containers including paints, pesticides, cleaners, and fuels. They come in various forms – powders, solids, liquids and gases. Hazardous substances must be handled and disposed of safely by:

  • identifying substances and their hazards using labels and markings – seek expert advice if the container cannot be identified
  • avoiding contact with unknown substances or containers
  • separating hazardous substances from general waste
  • wearing personal protective equipment such as protective eyewear, chemical resistant gloves, enclosed footwear, and a suitable respirator


Demolition work includes demolishing or dismantling a structure or part of a structure that is either load bearing or related to the physical integrity of the structure. You should always:

  • prepare a safe work method statement
  • ensure all services are decommissioned before demolishing
  • check for asbestos
  • engage a licenced asbestos removalist to remove asbestos before beginning demolition work

Where asbestos removal work has been commissioned, a clearance certificate must be obtained when the work has been completed and before the area is re-occupied. This does not apply if the asbestos removal work consisted only of removing non-friable asbestos-containing material not exceeding 10 square metres in total.

An asbestos removal licence may be required. Find a licenced asbestos removalist in your area.

Electrical safety

Electricity can kill or severely injure people and cause damage to property. Do not do your own electrical work at any time, under any circumstances, especially during or after a flood or storm. Engage a licenced electrician to complete electrical works. Electrical plant or equipment should not be used when at risk of exposure to water.

If water has entered your property, do not put the electricity or gas back on until the property wiring has been tested by a licensed electrician and your gas installation has been checked by a licensed gasfitter. Additional gas and electricity safety information for storm and flood-affected areas can be found on the Energy Safe Victoria website.


Fatigue can reduce your ability to work safely and effectively, particularly after the physical and emotional impact of a natural disaster. Employers have a duty to control risks to health and safety, so far as is reasonably practicable. This includes risks of fatigue. This may be done by:

  • rotating shifts
  • providing regular rest breaks
  • providing a space for employees to rest before commuting home
  • providing transport (where possible) to minimise the risks associated with commuting

Mental health

Natural disasters can take a significant mental and emotional toll on the many people impacted. To minimise the impact of mental health risks and psychological stress on employees, employers should:

  • facilitate regular discussions on additional pressures/challenges
  • provide rest areas for workers to take breaks
  • highlight crisis support and assistance available


As flood waters recede, you may find significant mould growth in parts of a building that have been flooded or exposed to high humidity levels.

Before cleaning or removing any mould growth, you should review the information provided by Department of Health Victoria.

Operating machinery

Operating wheeled or tracked machinery can be dangerous in flood affected areas. Before operating plant in flood-affected areas, operators should always:

  • be aware of changed ground conditions which may increase the risk of roll over, bogging or instability
  • operate machinery at a safe speed suitable to the conditions
  • do not allow untrained, inexperienced or, if relevant, unlicenced people to operate machinery

Working at heights

If you have to work from a height over 2 metres, employers must control the risk of a fall by applying the hierarchy of control measures:

  • working on the ground or on a solid construction; or
  • using a fall-prevention device (e.g. scaffold, elevating work platform, guard railing); or
  • using a work-positioning system (e.g., industrial rope access system or travel restraint system); or
  • using a fall-arrest system; or
  • using a ladder

The latest Victorian flood information

Additional resources