Did you know that September marks the eighth annual National Preparedenss Month, a campaign sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to raise awareness and help individuals, communities and businesses prepare for disasters.
According to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, “This year we recognize that September marks the 10-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Last week’s earthquake and Hurricane Irene, along with the deadly tornadoes and flooding this spring, are all important reminders that disasters can happen anytime, anywhere. By doing what we can to ensure that our communities, and our nation, are prepared to respond and recover from all types of disasters and hazards, we honor the memory of those who were lost that day.”
While it is critical we be prepared for natural disasters, we mustn’t forget about disasters in the workplace. Whether it’s combustible dust, confined spaces, blood borne pathogens, slip/trip/fall risks, or another hazard on OSHA’s target list, American manufacturers are not only obligated to protect their workers from these risks, but must be prepared in the event an accident or injury occurs. FEMA’s motto is Prepare. Plan. Stay Informed. These words also hold true for workplace disasters. Here are some tips your workplace can follow:
Did you know that many OSHA standards require firms with more than 10 employees to have a written emergency action plan; smaller companies may communicate their plans orally. Top management support and the commitment and involvement of all employees are essential to an effective emergency action plan.
Employers should review plans with employees when initially put in place and re-evaluate and amend the plan periodically whenever the plan itself, or employee responsibilities, change. Emergency procedures, including the handling of any toxic chemicals, should include:
• Escape procedures and escape route assignments.
• Special procedures for employees who perform or shut down critical plant operations.
• Systems to account for all employees after evacuation and for information about the plan.
• Rescue and medical duties for employees who perform them.
• Means for reporting fires and other emergencies.
To learn more about preparing for a workplace disaster, including chain of command, response activities, medical assistance, training and personal protection, check out OSHA’s Fact Sheet on Planning and Responding to Emergencies.