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CASs Provide Support to Tornado Damaged Areas in Missouri

In May 2003 a series of tornadoes struck Missouri, primarily in the Southwestern and Central portions of the state. Areas affected included the cities of Battlefield, Pierce City, Carl Junction, Stockton, Urbana, and Camdenton. Each of these areas was declared a Federal Disaster Area.

Due to the perceived magnitude of the clean-up and restoration operations following the events, and the inherent dangerous working conditions for employees engaged in this work, OSHA wanted to assist in ensuring safe and healthful working conditions at these sites. To that end, the St. Louis and Kansas City Area Offices dispatched their Compliance Assistance Specialists (CASs) to serve in an outreach capacity for these areas.

The following summarizes the CASs efforts in these cities:

  • Battlefield. On May 28, the CASs arrived in Battlefield. Many residential areas with significant tornado damage were noted (see photos 1, 2, 3). Much of the post-event activity centered on repairing these residential areas, although limited current construction work was observed. Contact was made with Battlefield City Hall. The CASs offered their assistance as a resource for safety and health information and left outreach materials with the city Building Inspector. The building inspector was encouraged to contact the Area Offices for any further assistance.
  • Pierce City. The CASs arrived at Pierce City on May 28. The town square and many residential areas sustained damage (see photos 4, 5, 6). Contact was made with Deputy Director of Emergency Management for Lawrence County and the Director of Safety Operations. From discussions with these officials, it was determined that cleanup efforts will mostly include demolition of buildings in the town square. A limited amount of residential repair work was being conducted on the date visited. The CASs offered their support as a resource for safety and health issues that may arise. Handout materials on asbestos, fall protection, overhead powerlines, and many other topics were provided.
  • Carl Junction. The CASs arrived in Carl Junction on May 28 (see photo 7). The damage to this city appeared to be mostly centered on residential areas. From visual observation, it appeared that the most of the work would be demolition of relatively small homes. Contact was made with the City Manager for Carl Junction. He provided contact information for FEMA operations in Springfield and Joplin. The CASs offered their assistance as a resource for safety and health issues.
  • Stockton. The tornado-damaged areas of Stockton were visited on May 29 (see photos 8, 9, 10). Extensive damage to residential and business areas were noted. Although a large (one city block) debris pile was observed, it was apparent that much work remained. Activity on this date was limited to surveying and minor construction repair. Contact was made with the Stockton City Hall. Outreach materials pertaining to asbestos, fall protection, electrical safety, and other safety and health topics were provided in a public area. The CASs also offered the support of the area offices.
  • Urbana. Visual observation and interviews with residents on May 29 showed the damage in Urbana to be contained to a limited area. No further contacts were made at this location.
  • Camdenton. Extensive residential damage was also found over a widespread area in Camdenton on May 29. Much of the ongoing work appeared to be demolition activity, with limited residential repair being conducted. Contacts were made with the Camden County Health Department and Camdenton City Hall. Outreach materials were provided for the city Building Inspector. The CASs offered their support and the resources of the Area Offices.
  • Other Contacts. The Safety Officer (and Deputy Safety Officer) for the FEMA Disaster Field Office in Springfield, Mo. was contacted as well. The mission and organization of the FEMA field offices was explained, as well as the role of the safety office. Outreach materials were provided to the representatives of this office.

Much of the work activity observed was limited to minor residential repair, although in several areas, most notably Stockton, it appeared that a greater scope of residential construction and repair work would be forthcoming. From observations and interviews with government officials, it was apparent that at the time of the visit, the sites were still undergoing inspections for insurance and other purposes. The sites may be in need of additional interventions, especially in the areas with the most residential damage (Stockton and Camdenton). Potential hazards noted include falls, asbestos, and overhead powerlines.

The use of the OSHA Compliance Assistance Specialists in this function seemed to be mostly well received and appreciated by those involved with the tornado recovery effort. Important contacts were made with those in the "front lines" of this effort.

For more information, please contact Michael Minicky, Compliance Assistance Specialist in OSHA's Area Office in St. Louis, Missouri, or Daniel Corcoran, Compliance Assistance Specialist in OSHA's Area Office in Kansas City, Missouri.

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