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Tornado Preparedness and Recovery

Tornados – sometimes you know they are coming and sometimes you have a few minutes to hunker down.

Tornadoes are columns of air extending down from the sky to the ground and rotate with great power and speed. Their extreme winds can create physical hazards and cleanup can be challenging.

Injuries to workers during the aftermath of a tornado are avoidable. However, be aware of the potential dangers involved at the worksite. Hazards can include heat stress, large machinery accidents, fire, hazardous materials, electrical hazards, carbon monoxide and more.

Construction workers may be involved in a number of response and recovery operations once a tornado blows through. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, offers guidelines for workers who may be called on to assess or clean-up worksite damage caused by a tornado.

While any worker may do some cleanup, some cleanup and restoration should only be done by workers adequately trained, equipped and experienced. This includes cleaning up hazardous materials spills and search and rescue operations.

Identify Potential Hazards

Safety and health hazards must be properly identified, evaluated and controlled systematically to eliminate health and occupational safety risks and to respond and recover properly. Some specific hazards in tornado-impacted areas include:

  • Slippery walkways that can lead to slip-and-falls
  • Nails, broken glass and other sharp objects
  • Slippery or blocked roadways that may involve hazardous driving conditions
  • Downed power lines, objects in contact with power lines, or other electrical hazards
  • Falls
  • Burns caused by coming in contact with energized lines or equipment failures
  • Dehydration and heat
  • Sheer exhaustion caused by extended work shifts

Take These Precautions

During and after a tornado, continue to monitor television stations and a local radio station for emergency information and the potential for further destructive weather. Also, keep in mind that a worksite may have structural damage, electrical damage, or gas-leak hazards.

If you identify such hazards, report them to the appropriate authorities or utility companies.

Never touch downed power lines or anything in contact with downed power lines.

Wear boots, gloves, and other appropriate clothing when walking on or near debris.

Watch out for sharp objects such as glass or strewn nails.

When operating chainsaws, generators, or other power tools, use the proper precautions.

Take steps, including proper hydration, to avoid heat-related illnesses.

Beforehand, prepare a comprehensive management plan to ensure the proper management of the tornado’s aftermath. Then, establish necessary measures, including advanced worker training, to prepare employees for what they might encounter during cleanup efforts.

Stress and Fatigue

Traumatic incident stress is part of what workers might encounter in a tornado’s wake. Symptoms might be difficult to identify, such as fatigue, thirst and mental confusion. However, specific physical, cognitive, emotional, and behavioral symptoms are related to traumatic incident stress. They also include nightmares, emotional outbursts, anxiety, guilt and behavioral changes.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health offers a guide to Traumatic Incident Stress.

In conclusion, train employees for what to expect during and after a tornado set up a management plan. Hence, cleanup efforts run smoothly and know the potential hazards workers may face during cleanup after a tornado.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.