There isn’t often a lot of time to prepare when a major hurricane is predicted. And it isn’t just storms for which we must prepare: Natural calamities such as tornadoes, earthquakes, and blizzards can strike at any time.
Because these catastrophes can result in considerable loss of life and property, it is imperative that not only individuals and homeowners, but also businesses, be prepared to respond. Not only is having an emergency plan important for business continuity in the case of a storm, but it’s also a workplace safety issue, as OSHA standards and expectations are strict.
Even if your company isn’t in a hurricane-prone area, OSHA requires all employers with 10 or more employees to have a written emergency action plan created in accordance with OSHA regulations. The goal of this plan is to identify and coordinate the steps that the employer and employees should take in case of a disaster to keep everyone safe before, during, and after the event.
The following are some of the OSHA standards for an emergency plan:
Emergency reporting procedures.
Which staff should evacuate and where should they go?
Whoever is important to operations and has to stay on the job, as well as the procedures they have to follow.
Plans for certifying employee status during an evacuation.
Contact information for those involved in the plan’s implementation.
Emergency equipment location.
Procedures for notifying employees of an emergency
The primary goal of any emergency plan is to establish clear lines of communication and instructions so that staff know exactly what to do in the case of an emergency. Employees should know what is expected of them in terms of preparing their work surroundings, such as keeping and securing critical information.
In the case of hurricanes, for example, there is usually at least some advance notice. Employees should also understand what is expected of them when remaining in touch after the storm has passed.
However, because not all emergencies allow for preparedness and evacuation isn’t always possible or recommended, your company’s safety staff must train personnel in shelter-in-place protocols. You’ll need to devise a communication system as well as clear directions on where to go and how to get emergency supplies.
The concept that all employees have the right to a safe workplace free of all known hazards underpins all emergency response plans. In practice, this implies that you must put these plans through extensive drills and make changes based on what you learn.
Employer responsibility for employee safety does not end when the storm or immediate risk has passed.Major disasters can result in floods, structural damage, the release of toxic substances, and other hazards that could endanger employees, whether or not they are participating in the cleanup.
The first point that business owners must consider is that before personnel begin any form of cleanup or recovery, the scene must be inspected for potential hazards. The information gathered will be utilized to provide personnel with information, training, and protective equipment.
Bacteria and mold from flooding, downed electrical lines, threats from portable generators, and hazards related to work areas and construction zones are some of the most common hazards linked with disaster cleaning. Because there are so many hazards associated with catastrophe cleanup, many firms prefer to hire expert groups to oversee the recovery rather than risk their own staff.
However, business owners must understand that even if they employ a qualified crew, they may still be held liable for any hazards to workers and must be aware of all OSHA rules, even if they do not particularly pertain to storm cleanup.
Keeping your employees safe during a natural catastrophe is a huge duty, and the rules and standards governing employee safety are complicated. Even small firms must rely on the skills of a professional occupational health and safety specialist to guarantee that all standards are followed and employees remain safe and injury-free.