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Oct 2017

Occupational Safety and Disaster Preparedness


storm over a lake

Over a year ago Cousign posted an article detailing the importance of natural disaster preparedness. Currently, millions of individuals across the United States are dealing with severe natural disasters. Wildfires in the Pacific Northwest feast on dry timber and vegetation, while Florida and Texas cope with the devastations dealt by hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The aftermath of hurricane Maria continues in Puerto Rico, and still threatens further Islands and the South Western shores of the United States. In the light of these events it is important to revisit the subject of severe weather and natural disaster preparedness. Severe weather threats are a part of life no matter where you are in the United States, and employers need to protect their employees.

The Impact of Severe Weather

The year 2016 saw a record set for the economic impact severe weather events had on the United States. Overall, 15 events occurred that exceeded 1 billion dollars in damage. Every year, severe thunder storms, tornados, wildfires, floods, and other disasters strike and can damage businesses, homes, and human infrastructure wherever they occur. In addition to economic damage severe weather events can endanger lives. Hundreds of people are killed every year due to severe weather events. In 2016, the leading causes of human fatality among severe weather events were Floods and Extreme heat. Combined, these disasters caused over 200 deaths. On average, Floods kill 84 people a year in the United States, while Extreme Heat is the cause of over 130 deaths each year. Now, 2017 has continued down a similar path – especially in the wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Employers Need to be Concerned

The safety of the employees of any company is paramount. Certainly, the economic damages inflicted by severe weather are significant, but nobody can reroute a tornado or a flood. Yet, Employers can save lives. Employers need to be concerned about the effect weather events – even severe thunderstorms, snow, or heavy rain- may have on their employees. Certainly, this may change depending on the occupation in discussion. For example, a large manufacturing company on a 150 acre site will have a different approach to emergency preparedness than a landscaping company with 15 employees.

Regardless of the occupation, employers need to have an emergency plan in place to ensure a proper response to a weather emergency. For example, the manufacturing company will find shelter in-house for events like tornados and thunderstorms. However, the landscaping company will need to implement a different plan that directs employees to proper safety locations and actions during a severe weather event. Every occupation and workplace setting is different. The point is to create a plan that prepares employees to handle emergency situations calmly and precisely.

The Components of a Proper Plan

Creating and implementing an effective emergency preparedness plan for Severe Weather can be difficult. It is important that the process is given sufficient time and consideration in order to properly construct the plan. Any plan that is fashioned too quickly or half-heartedly will fail under the intense pressure of an emergency. Employers can follow a few steps to help facilitate the creation of a proper plan.

Appoint an Emergency Coordinator

Any plan or project will run more smoothly when there is someone who can take ownership of it and its quality. Appointing someone to oversee the emergency plan facilitation and maintenance – whether it be a current employee or contracted to a third party – is a key step. Putting a responsible and qualified individual in a position of power is the first step to creating an effective emergency plan. Build a small, qualified team around this individual to promote diversity in thought and expertise, share the responsibility, and ensure that the plan is adequately prepared.

Gather Data on Workplace Preparedness

No one will know better than the employees themselves if they are prepared for extreme weather situations. Gathering data on the most common severe weather events in your area and cross-referencing that data with employee knowledge on emergency response is one way to assess the effectiveness of your current plan. Additionally, are there any components of your workplace that could cause harm if they were damaged during a weather event? For example, any chemicals or gasses that would be harmful if released? Identify the components of your workplace that could be harmful to humans if damaged during a weather event.

Use Outside Resources

Contacting Local, State, and Federal agencies regarding severe weather emergencies goes a long way in solidifying your emergency plan. Additionally, ensure your company is complying with any regulations regarding emergency preparedness plans.

Drill, Drill, and Drill again

Practice makes perfect. The old adage is a cliché, but it is still a blatant truth. Once your plan is in place then run your employees through a practice scenario. Use these drills to assess all facets of the plan. Practice evacuations, sheltering in place, and test communication systems. For companies with field workers it is important to test lines of communication that would be used to alert employees in the field of an emergency weather event. Test everything, assess the results, and edit your plan until it runs smoothly and efficiently.

Ultimately, preparing for an emergency weather event is not an easy task. Different events require different preparations and responses. Still, it is crucial that employers have plans in place to protect their employees during any such event. Don’t overlook it just because it ‘probably won’t happen’. Prioritize safety, and be ready to act.

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Cousign offers a wide variety of safety scoreboard signs to help increase safety awareness in your company.  Our signs are all fully customizable with your company logo and text.  With the ability to add any number of numeric displays, traffic light indicators and scrolling message displays you’re sure to get a sign that really gets attention.  If you know the details of the sign you are looking for take our product finder and quote tool for a spin to help you locate right sign, or browse our catalog to see some of the great options available.

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