Man says employer refused to let him take shelter at work as destructive tornado bore down
By John Roach, AccuWeather staff writer
April 15, 2019, 10:43:17 AM EDT
The disconnect was clear for Cameron Morse on the day an EF2-rated tornado bringing 125-mph winds approached Paducah, Kentucky, on March 14.
On a morning break from his job as call center representative at Lynx Services, he received alerts on his mobile phone of an impending tornado with advisories to take cover, and he heard emergency sirens blaring in the distance.
“Some supervisors disappeared into a back office,” said Morse, who wanted to head for safety. “I was one of the people who asked our floor supervisor" for permission to leave his work station and take shelter, he added.
“[The supervisor] said, ‘No, just continue working. You’ll be fine.’ I said, ‘Alright’ and went to my desk and did what I was told. I’ve got to work.”
Morse is one of 22 employees who filed an Occupational Safety and Health Administration complaint against Lynx Services for not allowing them to take shelter during a tornado, according to WPSDlocal6.com. Lynx, a Solera Company which handles claims services for the property and casualty insurance industry, has not yet replied to an AccuWeather.com call for comment about the day’s events.
The tornado traveled nearly 17 miles, was an estimated 300 yards at its widest, lasted 16 minutes and approached within a few miles of the Lynx office building. Dozens of barns, garages and grain bins were destroyed, at least a dozen homes sustained major structural damage, and a state of emergency was declared for McCracken County, according to KFVS12.com.
“The Walmart shut down –- and, you know, Walmart doesn’t shut down for anything,” Morse, who is 21 and had a few shingles blown off his own roof in Paducah, told AccuWeather.com.
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Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970, employers are responsible for providing safe and healthful workplaces for their employees and to have an Emergency Action Plan “to facilitate and organize employer and employee actions during workplace emergencies.”
“As long as I’ve been there for a year and a half they haven’t done one type of training for storms or anything for what we need to do,” Elisia Cruz, another Lynx employee taking part in the complaint, told WPSD. As of this report, Morse and Cruz are the only two employees who filed the complaint to speak out publicly about the ordeal. Others have discussed their experiences, but under the condition of anonymity.
Solera released a statement, which in part read, “Although we have protocols in place to address these situations, we took immediate action when questions about safety procedures in the wake of the tornado activity were brought to our attention ... We are in the process of ensuring that everyone is retrained and considering whether other safety measures are needed.”
Preparation and planning are keys for companies when it comes to weather-related incidents. “This is just one example of the many things that can quickly go wrong when a company doesn’t utilize highly detailed and accurate weather expertise to be proactive and to add confidence to decision-making during a severe weather threat," said Jonathan Porter, AccuWeather vice president of Business Services and general manager of Enterprise Solutions. "It shows how important it is for every business to have a weather safety plan covering all weather risks that may be faced and then actionable warnings from expert meteorologists monitoring their facilities to activate those safety plans."
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