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Tornado Preparedness and Response

Response/Recovery

Joplin Tornado

In the aftermath of a tornado, workers may be involved in a variety of response and recovery operations. The following are general guidelines that may be applicable to workers involved in assessing and/or cleaning up the damage to their worksite. However, some operations, such as utility restoration, cleaning up spills of hazardous materials, and search and rescue, should only be conducted by workers who have the proper training, equipment and experience.

Potential Hazards

Response and recovery work in tornado-impacted areas presents safety and health hazards that should be properly identified, evaluated, and controlled in a systematic manner to reduce or eliminate occupational safety and health risks to response and recovery workers. Some of the specific hazards associated with working in the aftermath of tornadoes include:

  • Hazardous driving conditions due to slippery and/or blocked roadways
  • Slips and falls due to slippery walkways
  • Falling and flying objects such as tree limbs and utility poles
  • Sharp objects including nails and broken glass
  • Electrical hazards from downed power lines or downed objects in contact with power lines
  • Falls from heights
  • Burns from fires caused by energized line contact or equipment failure
  • Exhaustion from working extended shifts
  • Heat and Dehydration.
General Precautions
  • Continue to monitor your local radio or television stations for emergency information and the potential of additional storms. Be aware of possible structural, electrical, or gas-leak hazards.
  • If such hazards are identified, report them to the proper local authorities and/or utility.
  • Do not touch downed power lines or objects in contact with downed power lines.
  • Wear proper clothing when walking on or near debris, including boots and gloves.
  • Be careful around sharp objects, including nails and broken glass.
  • Use the proper safety precautions when operating generators, chainsaws, or other power tools.
  • Take steps to prevent heat illnesses and dehydration.

See the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for additional precautions to take after a tornado.

Fact Sheets and Quick Cards

OSHA has the following materials to assist employers with assessing and controlling the hazards common to most response and recovery work in tornado-impacted areas.

For more information, see other Emergency Response Resources from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) or for a full list of related materials, see the Additional Resources page.


*Accessibility Assistance: Contact OSHA's Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management at (202) 639-2300 for assistance accessing PDF materials.

All other documents, that are not PDF materials or formatted for the web, are available as Microsoft Office® formats and videos and are noted accordingly. If additional assistance is needed with reading, reviewing or accessing these documents or any figures and illustrations, please also contact OSHA's Directorate of Technical Support and Emergency Management at (202) 639-2300.

**eBooks - EPUB is the most common format for e-Books. If you use a Sony Reader, a Nook, or an iPad you can download the EPUB file format. If you use a Kindle, you can download the MOBI file format.

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