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OSHA has responded to several emergency incidents over the past few years, ranging from the earthquake, tsunami and nuclear crisis in Japan, to tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, and floods here in the U.S. During these emergencies, OSHA coordinated with federal, state, and local partners to ensure that domestic workers were being protected from safety and health hazards.Hurricane Sandy
Hurricane Sandy made landfall on October 29, 2012 near Atlantic City, NJ and affected over 20 states, from Florida to New England, with tropical storm force winds stretching far inland. The storm brought a destructive storm surge to New Jersey and New York on the evening of October 29, flooding numerous streets, tunnels and subway lines in Lower Manhattan and other areas of the city and forcing power outages in many parts of the city and surrounding areas. Extensive damage occurred in communities along the New Jersey, New York, and New England coast lines. OSHA field staff is working diligently to provide technical assistance, information, and support to workers and employers involved in the Hurricane Sandy response and recovery operations.
Hurricane Irene had a substantial impact, causing widespread flooding as well as downed trees and power lines that left millions without power. These effects presented serious hazards to workers involved in the response and recovery from the storm. OSHA provided technical assistance and outreach on worker safety and health issues to those areas hardest hit by both the flooding and downed trees and power lines caused by Hurricane Irene.
Flooding in Minot, North Dakota
In June, a combination of heavy rainfall and snow melts caused massive flooding in Minot, North Dakota. The historic floods forced thousands of residents to evacuate the area. During the response to the floods, OSHA personnel went to Minot to provide safety and health technical assistance to federal and local officials involved in the response. This assistance included helping identify the hazards that were present as well as the resources necessary to ensure that responders were protected.
Tornadoes Strike the Midwest
A number of tornadoes touched down in the South and the Midwest this year and caused catastrophic results. One of the most notable was the tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri, the deadliest tornado in the country in the past 50 years. The tornado’s impact was devastating; however, the work to cleanup and rebuild the community also posed significant hazards. OSHA worked with FEMA, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and the EPA to ensure that appropriate guidance was given to individuals about how to safely tear down homes and protect themselves from asbestos, debris, and other hazards during this process.
Japan’s Nuclear Power Plant Crisis
On March 11, 2011, a 9.0 magnitude earthquake and a resulting tsunami caused significant devastation in Japan. The disasters caused cooling systems at the Fukushima Daiishi nuclear power plant to fail, which caused a crisis as workers at the plant struggled to stabilize the reactors.
From the onset, officials did not expect harmful levels of radiation to reach the United States. OSHA worked with other federal agencies to verify this and ensure that workers in the U.S. were not being exposed to harmful levels of radiation. OSHA also helped provide workers and the public with information, and worked with groups of workers, such as those who dealt with cargo at ports of entry, to ensure that their specific concerns were addressed.