US Labor Department's OSHA and Wage and Hour Division protecting
workers and wages during Oklahoma tornado recovery efforts
OKLAHOMA CITY – As the Oklahoma areas struck by the recent tornadoes recover from the damages, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Wage and Hour Division urge recovery workers, employers and the public to exercise caution during cleanup and recovery efforts and be aware that in this critical time individuals can qualify for benefits under the Family and Medical Leave Act.
"Our main concern is the safety of the workers conducting cleanup activities. Our Oklahoma City staff is on the ground in affected areas to provide compliance assistance," said John Hermanson, OSHA's regional administrator in Dallas. "Workers are exposed to a wide array of hazards during storm recovery efforts that can be minimized by knowledge, safe work practices and the use of personal protective equipment."
Hazards involved in cleanup work may include illness from exposure to contaminated water or food; heat exhaustion; downed electrical wires; carbon monoxide poisoning and electrical shock from portable generators; and fall and struck-by dangers from tree-trimming or working at heights. Additionally, people can be caught in unprotected excavations or confined spaces; suffer burns, lacerations or musculoskeletal injuries; and face exposure to dangerous materials and being struck by traffic or heavy equipment. Fact sheets, quick cards and other educational materials on safe work practices and personal protective equipment are available on the agency's Tornado Recovery Web page at http://www.osha.gov/dts/weather/tornado/index.html. Individuals involved in recovery efforts can call OSHA's toll-free hotline at 800-321-OSHA (6742) or the agency's Oklahoma City Area Office at 405-278-9560. Information is also available at www.osha.gov.
"If an employee is seeking leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act to care for an injured family member, or a worker needs assistance under the Fair Labor Standards Act in receiving a last paycheck delayed because of disaster, we are here to help," said Cynthia Watson regional administrator for the Wage and Hour Division in the Southwest. "In periods of emergencies and natural disasters, federal laws protecting the rights of workers and their families are not waived or suspended."
The Wage and Hour Division investigators are meeting with city officials, businesses and nonprofit organizations in Moore, Cleveland, Tyrone, Chandler, Little Ax, Shawnee and Oklahoma City to provide assistance and distribute reference guides, fact sheets and publications. Some of the materials available, in English and Spanish, that address leave and wage issues include the Family and Medical Leave Act Employee's Guide, Work Hours Calendar, protections for construction workers under the Davis-Bacon Act, the FLSA handy reference guide, How to File a Complaint, employment and wages under federal law during disasters and recovery fact sheet. All of these are available on the Wage and Hour Division website at http://www.dol.gov/WHD/. For more information about federal wage laws, call the Wage and Hour Division's toll-free helpline at 866-4US-WAGE (487-9243) or its Oklahoma City District Office 405-231-4158.
U.S. Department of Labor news materials are accessible at http://www.dol.gov. The information above is available in large print, Braille or CD from the COAST office upon request by calling 292-693-7828 or TTY 292-693-7755.