Dr. Biz - Frequently Asked Questions Regarding 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 have been 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. As a result, please read the following frequently asked questions and be guided by our responses.


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.

Click here for the full list of questions and answers on safe ash removal.