tornadoExtreme weather, such as the recent spate of violent storms – including tornadoes -- that tore through a large swathe of the U.S. can leave behind widespread damage and pose unique dangers for those doing the recovery and cleanup work.

OSHA is urging recovery workers, employers and the public to be aware of the hazards they can encounter and mitigate them by safe work practices and the use of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Storm and tornado cleanup work can involve hazards related to:

  • restoring electricity, communications, and water and sewer services
  • demolition activities
  • cleaning up debris
  • tree trimming
  • structural, roadway and bridge repair
  • hazardous waste operations
  • emergency response activities.

OSHA maintains a comprehensive website on keeping disaster site workers safe during tornado and storm cleanup and recovery operations.

Hazards in areas affected by flooding may include:

  • dam and levee repair
  • removal of floodwater from structures and repairing downed electrical wires in standing water.

Workers and residents taking defensive action to protect structures or evacuate severely impacted areas may encounter numerous hazards, such as rapidly rising streams and moving water. OSHA has a variety of resources on flood preparedness and response detailing how to stay safe during floods and subsequent cleanup.

Only workers provided with the proper training, equipment and experience should conduct cleanup activities, according to OSHA.

Protective measures should involve:

  • evaluating the work area for all hazards
  • employing engineering or work practice controls to mitigate hazards
  • using personal protective equipment
  • assuming that all power lines are live
  • properly using portable generators, saws, ladders, vehicles and other equipment
  • paying attention to safety precautions for traffic work zones.

Individuals involved in recovery efforts can call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or visit the agency's website to reach local representatives who can provide on-site assistance.