Employers are responsible for the safety and health of their workers, which can be anywhere from one person to thousands. One safety responsibility is to ensure your employees know what to do before, during and after a natural disaster, such as a floor, wildfire or hurricane.
Did you know that OSHA requires nearly all employers with at least 11 employees to have a written, comprehensive emergency action plan while employers with 10 or fewer employees are permitted to communicate their plans orally?
These tips will help you prepare for the types of natural disasters that occur in your area, whether you need to create, or review, your disaster prep plan.
Develop a plan specific for your business that includes:
- shelter and safe areas; be sure to include those who work outdoors and that you have plans for every location
- evacuation plans
- schedule of when drills and employee training will occur
- preparation of emergency supply kits
- personal protective equipment that may be needed
- cleanup and response plans
- communication to all about emergency processes and procedures during and after an event
Educate and train your workers.
- Make sure employees know what a safe place is in case they are in a different location. Ensure outdoor workers know what to do in the event of severe weather.
- Emergency supply kits should include things such as: battery powered radio, flashlights, extra batteries, first aid supplies and water.
- In severe weather, be sure to have someone listening to the weather channels, the local news and/or NOAA Weather Radio.
- Know weather watch and warning systems plus weather signs to look out for
- Know your community’s warning system.
Make sure your preparedness plan includes procedures for shutting off gas, water and electrical switches. After a severe storm there can be gas leaks that lead to explosions, water leaks and electrocutions if the power is left on.
Health and safety concerns for all types of disasters that you might want to plan for include:
- Animal and insect-related hazards:
- Food and water safety
- Carbon monoxide
- Illness and injury prevention
- Power outages
After a Natural Disaster
Be aware of possible structural, electrical, or gas-leak hazards and be careful when entering any structure that has been damaged.
If you see frayed wiring or sparks, or if there is an odor of something burning, you should immediately shut off the electrical system at the main circuit breaker.
Do not touch downed power lines or objects in contact with downed lines.
If you smell gas or suspect a leak, turn off the main gas valve and leave immediately. Do not turn on the lights, light matches, smoke, or do anything that could cause a spark.
Carbon monoxide (CO)–an odorless, colorless gas –can build up and poison people. Seek prompt medical attention if you suspect CO poisoning and are feeling dizzy, light-headed, or nauseated.
If it is dark when you are inspecting your business, use a flashlight rather than a candle or torch to avoid the risk of fire or explosion.
Watch out for spilled medicines, drugs, flammable liquids, and other potentially hazardous materials.
Wear proper clothing when walking on or near debris, including boots and gloves.
Use the proper safety precautions when operating generators, chainsaws, or other power tools.
If evacuated, return only when you are told by authorities that it is safe to do so.
Do not use water that could be contaminated to wash dishes, brush teeth, prepare food, wash hands, make ice or make baby formula