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OSHA Works with Cooperative Program Participants to Support Joplin Tornado Relief

In the aftermath of the tornado that struck Joplin, Missouri on May 22, 2011, OSHA staff from the Kansas City, Missouri Area Office supported the cleanup and recovery efforts. Several staff members relocated temporarily to Springfield to be closer to the site; all available lodging in Joplin was destroyed. Staff members made the 150-mile round trip from Springfield to Joplin for 10 weeks, usually leaving at 5:30 a.m. to arrive in Joplin in time for early morning training sessions.

From May 22 through August 2, 2011, Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) from the Kansas City Area Office estimate they conducted 1,600 non-enforcement interventions, addressing hazards and helping Joplin contractors, independent contractors, and volunteers find solutions to them. They addressed topics like fall protection, trenching hazards, electrical hazards, and debris removal. These efforts were in lieu of enforcement efforts, which under normal circumstances would have resulted in citations in many instances.

From June 15 through July 30, 2011, the Area Office staff presented Focus Four Hazard Training, Asbestos Training, and Heat Illness Prevention Training sessions to more than 600 contractors. Often the times and places for the training sessions were 6:00 and 7:00 a.m. at vacant lots throughout the city. They also used the stadium of Missouri Southern State University in Joplin. In addition to presenting training sessions, the Area Office staff placed fall protection information and heat stress QuickCards at local lumber and building suppliers and at permitting entities at the Cities of Joplin and Duquesne.

In their support of the clean-up efforts, OSHA staff also coordinated the efforts of a number of cooperative program participants including members of the Alliance between the Region VII Kansas City Area Office and the Safety Council of the Ozarks (the Safety Council); members of the Region VII Voluntary Protection Programs Participants Association (VPPPA); and members of several OSHA Strategic Partnerships to support recovery efforts.

The Kansas City Area Office Alliance with the Safety Council was signed in December 2003 and has been renewed four times. After the tornado, the Safety Council sent out an e-mail blast to its members about the urgent need for cut-resistant gloves and sleeves. Search and rescue teams and other first responders were experiencing a high incidence of cuts and puncture wounds. Donations of enough gloves to fill two 18-wheeler trucks came from throughout the country. The first truck arrived Tuesday, May 24th, two days after the tornado.

Members of Partnerships with the Kansas City Area Office also made vital contributions. According to Barbara Theriot, Area Director, Kansas City Area Office, "We don't know how many Partnerships sent PPE, but we do know that several of them did. We would hear from the fire and police departments that '...another one of your partners sent some stuff...'" The Kansas City Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America, which is involved in several Regional Partnerships, provided two 4-hour Focus Four/Asbestos Awareness classes. The Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors National Association, which has a Partnership with the Area Office, donated money for the purchase of PPE for first responders and volunteers.

Representatives from the Region VII VPPPA contacted their constituents for donations of PPE. In order to ensure that volunteers had the necessary PPE, Region VII VPPPA members contributed funds to establish an account for AmeriCorp members to draw upon as they coordinated and outfitted the volunteers.

There were zero fall fatalities during the Joplin response and recovery efforts.

For more information about this story, contact Mark Banden or Barbara Theriot.

As of February 2012

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