The Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act) requires employers to comply with hazard-specific safety and health standards. In addition, pursuant to Section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act, employers must provide their employees with a workplace free from recognized hazards likely to cause death or serious physical harm. Emergency Preparedness Guides do not and cannot enlarge or diminish an employer's obligations under the OSH Act.
Emergency Preparedness Guides are based on presently available information, as well as current occupational safety and health provisions and standards. The procedures and practices discussed in Emergency Preparedness Guides may need to be modified when additional, relevant information becomes available or when OSH Act standards are promulgated or modified.
Rescue Workers and Emergency Responders may already have experience with entering collapsed structures resulting from (1) construction catastrophes, (2) earthquakes, (3) fire and (4) weather related structural failures. Weather related structural failures typically result from rain/snow accumulations on roofs, hurricanes, tornadoes, landslides and even avalanches. Today, rescue workers and emergency responders also face the possibility of entering a structure that has collapsed following a terrorist attack. Terrorist activity may add additional hazards such as secondary devices, follow-on attack and residual radiological, biological or chemical contamination. Historically, terrorist activities that have resulted in collapsed structures include crashing commercial jets into the World Trade Towers in New York City (September 11, 2001) and vehicular bombs, such as the one used at the Murrah Federal Office Building in Oklahoma City, OK (April 19, 1995). Regardless of the root cause of the structural failure, rescue workers and emergency responders who enter a collapsed structure in order to perform their duties should work safely.
When internal load bearing structural elements fail, a building will collapse into itself and exterior walls are pulled into the falling structure. This scenario may be caused by construction activity, an earthquake, or fire, and may result in a dense debris field with a small footprint. Alternatively, if the structural failure is caused by an explosion or natural forces such as weather, the building may collapse in an outward direction, resulting in a less dense and more scattered debris field.
Following a catastrophic failure of a structure for whatever reason, rescue workers and emergency responders may be required to enter the collapsed structure. Emergency responders include firefighters, police, emergency medical technicians, construction workers and government representatives. Emergency responders may be responsible for assisting survivors, extinguishing fires, shutting off utilities, assessing structural instabilities, shoring up safe paths into the structure and assessing other hazards, such as airborne contaminants. Rescue workers such as Urban Search and Rescue Teams focus on finding survivors, and later removing victims from collapsed structures. In addition, many terrorist investigators will be on site treating the collapsed structure as a crime scene.
Although these catastrophic events may initially be quite chaotic, site management will eventually be under an Incident Command System. Local responders and rescuers will obviously respond first with the State requesting Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) assistance if warranted.
A trained Structures Specialist from Urban Search and Rescue will be responsible for:
Once the Incident Command System is established at a collapsed structure, the Incident Commander maintains accountability for all response personnel at the scene. A Safety Officer may also be mobilized and report directly to the Incident Commander. The Safety Officer is responsible for monitoring and assessing the safety aspects of the responders during the collapsed structure event. The Safety Officer's responsibilities may include:
The following hazards should be considered to protect rescue workers and emergency responders when preparing to enter a collapsed structure:
The Department of Labor does not endorse, takes no responsibility for, and exercises no control over the linked organization or its views, or contents, nor does it vouch for the accuracy or accessibility of the information contained on the destination server. The Department of Labor also cannot authorize the use of copyrighted materials contained in linked Web sites. Users must request such authorization from the sponsor of the linked Web site. Thank you for visiting our site. Please click the button below to continue.