Iowa OSHA On-Site Consultation Provides Safety and Health Support Following Devastating Flooding
In March 2019, a “bomb cyclone” barreled into Nebraska, breaking 30 levees, causing several cities in southwestern Iowa to flood, and affecting access to a major highway. Flood waters damaged a water treatment plant, requiring a local city to truck in roughly 275,000 gallons to the residents. Another city was underwater for 30 days. The area suffered $1.6 billion in damages. Several government agencies responded to this natural disaster, but only the Iowa OSHA On-Site Consultation program provided safety and health assistance.
The Iowa OSHA On-Site Consultation program sent two consultants to the area to provide compliance assistance. After the consultants made initial contact with homeowners and companies in the affected area, Consultation services began to provide guidance and educational information to small business owners, clean-up recovery crews, and government officials. During their visits to the area, the consultants observed hazards associated with tree trimming, electrical safety, personal protective equipment (PPE), ladder safety, and fall protection. Lack of PPE was the most commonly observed hazard.
The amount of time the cities were underwater increased the safety and health hazards in the area. Even as the water levels diminished, hazards remained from contaminated water. As they made contacts with local businesses, consultants raised awareness of these hazards to help individuals focus on personal safety during the recovery and rebuilding. By educating businesses on how to safely address these hazards, the consultants were able to encourage affected individuals to take action when hazardous conditions were observed.
The Iowa OSHA On-Site Consultation program performed about 50 interventions and no serious injuries occurred during this recovery time. Because of the positive relationship formed, the Consultation program has remained involved in the area’s rebuilding process. The final impact is yet to be determined as the area has not yet fully recovered. What is known is that the relationship formed in these communities in 2019 resulted in employers’ continuous requests for Consultation assistance into 2020.
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.