Adverse Weather Part 3: Tornadoes

The first two posts of this series covered how lightning and heat can affect work. The next weather condition is the hardest to predict…tornadoes. On average 1,200 tornadoes are reported throughout the U.S. resulting in $1.1 billion in property damage and 80 deaths annually.

Tornadoes can occur with little to no warning. They can spin off of larger thunder storms or develop seemingly out of nowhere. They can happen anytime day or night. But the danger isn’t always from the storm itself; there are hazards within the clean up and recovery efforts as well.


For those in areas of the country where this phenomenon is likely to occur, it is key to have an emergency plan in place and make sure those on site are as prepared as possible BEFORE the storm hits. The plan should include details on:

  • Appropriate places to take shelter (usually not a vehicle)
  • Policies to ensure personnel are accounted for
  • Procedures for addressing any materials on site
  • Procedures for shutting down and securing equipment

Click map for larger view.

If you are lucky enough to have a tornado watch issued (which means conditions may produce a tornado—but none have been sighted yet), you have additional time to prepare the site. Look around and see what could easily fly and then restrain it or mitigate it as best as possible. This could include:

  • if working in a crane, land the load and lay down the boom (if possible)
  • Moving heavy equipment to a safe area (if possible)
  • Emptying or put netting on dumpsters
  • Storing scaffolding planks
  • Banding lumber or other materials
  • Covering loose dirt piles with tarps
  • Anchoring port-a-potties, job site trailers, enclosed storage areas, etc.
  • Securing any hazardous chemicals


After the Storm

In the aftermath of a tornado, workers may be involved in a variety of response and recovery operations. First of all, listen to local officials for updates and instructions. One of the keys to cleaning up safely is to properly identify, evaluate and plan work in order to reduce or eliminate risk. This could include items such as:

  • Watch out for downed power lines—they may still carry an electric current and there is a possibility that the ground may be energized making the area very unsafe.
  • Be careful of both large and small debris—wear protective clothing, including a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, work gloves, and sturdy, thick-soled shoes during clean-up.
  • Use the proper safety precautions when operating generators, chainsaws, or other power tools.
  • Take steps to prevent heat illnesses and dehydration.

Remember, Safety through Education is more than just Crane Tech’s motto it is our guiding principal. Protecting lives so that they can return to their family and back to work is as important as getting the work done. If you need training related to material handling services, contact us at 800-290-0007.

For more checklists and resources on this topic check out the OSHA Tornado Preparedness and Response page.

Stay tuned next week as the series concludes with how to work with hurricanes on the horizon.

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