Iowa On-Site Consultation Provides Critical Safety and Health Support after Most Costly Thunderstorm Disaster in U.S. History
This radar image shows the extent of the storms across the Midwest (Source: weather.gov)
On Monday, August 10, 2020, a weather complex known as a derecho sent intense winds and thunderstorms over a 700-mile stretch from Nebraska to Indiana. In Iowa, the hardest hit state, three deaths were reported and hundreds of thousands of people went without power for several weeks. A state of emergency was declared. Several safety and health consultants from the Iowa Division of Labor On-Site Consultation program were activated to provide safety and health assistance during the recovery efforts. They traveled to numerous cities throughout Iowa.
Consultants were separated into three different teams to work across the greater part of Iowa. Once in their respective towns, they made their presence known by traveling in a state of Iowa placard vehicle, and by introducing themselves to local police, county sheriffs, fire departments, city officials, and other state agencies to identify where they could be of benefit. The consultants assisted both private and public employers in identifying hazards and suggesting corrective actions to assure the safety of citizens, volunteers, and employees
In Cedar Rapids, where the greatest damage occurred, consultants identified hazards associated with tree removal and exposure to falls. Other hazards included the potential for lacerations and amputations from chain saws, wood chipper hazards, and hazards associated with working around electrical power lines and moving equipment/objects. The consultants provided multiple contractors with educational materials each day before they started working.
Throughout the response time from August 11-21, 2020, the Iowa Consultation program worked with many contractors and emergency management coordinators. For example, Iowa Consultation provided 39 employers with information at one staging area. While there had been three reported fatalities during the derecho, no work-related fatalities involved with the recovery efforts were reported to Iowa OSHA. The Consultation program remains active and available for assistance during the rebuilding phase.
The OSHA On-Site Consultation Program offers no-cost and confidential occupational safety and health services to small and medium-sized businesses in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and several U.S. territories, with priority given to high hazard worksites. Consultants from state agencies or universities work with employers to identify workplace hazards and how to fix them, provide advice for compliance with OSHA standards, train and educate workers, and assist in establishing and improving safety and health programs. On-Site Consultation services are separate from OSHA enforcement efforts and do not result in penalties or citations. To locate the OSHA On-Site Consultation program nearest you, call 800-321-OSHA (6742) or visit https://www.osha.gov/Consultation.
Intersections blocked by storm debris
Grain bins twisted and destroyed from the storm