If 2020 has taught us anything, it is that we are not immune from unpredictable and unplanned events, and that being prepared for emergencies can make all the difference when it comes to keeping ourselves and those around us safe.
This is why our team at The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., is proud to recognize National Preparedness Month and do our part in spreading awareness about the need to plan ahead for potential emergencies.
About National Preparedness Month
National Preparedness Month is a public awareness initiative recognized each September as a means to promote emergency and disaster planning.
As our nation continues to battle COVID-19, unprecedented natural disasters, and climate change, the need for understanding that “Disasters Don’t Wait” should help us all realize the importance of being prepared for emergencies such as:
- Human-caused hazards, including workplace accidents
- Natural hazards like floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, and earthquakes
- Health hazards, including serious illnesses like COVID-19
- Technology-related hazards like power outages and equipment failure
How to Create a Workplace Preparedness Plan
Employers, management and others with oversight of worksites are wise to develop comprehensive preparedness programs that establish policies for dealing with various hazards and mitigating risks faced by workers and the public.
FEMA’s Ready Business Program is one useful resource that can help employers develop plans which address local, relevant hazards. Per FEMA, these plans should be developed through a multi-step process in which employers:
- Identify risks related to their industry and geographic area, such as hurricanes, earthquakes, extreme heat, winter weather and other physical or chemical hazards in or out of the workplace that could result in an emergency.
- Develop a tailored plan for specific disasters and events, including an emergency action plan (EAP) that organize employer and worker actions during emergencies, and address specific worksite layouts, emergency systems, and structural features. Many employers are required to have such plans under OSHA standards.
- Take action to assess, implement, and refine emergency plans with insight from workers, experts and public officials.
Preparedness Tips for Employers, Site Managers & Workers
Workplace emergencies include any situation that threatens workers, customers or the public, results in shut-down or disruption of business operations or causes physical or environmental damage. They can be natural or man-made and include events ranging from wildfires, floods and winter weather to chemical spills, disease outbreaks or explosions involving harmful substances.
Though disasters can strike at any time, many emergencies can be anticipated in a proper planning process that helps employers and workers hone their responses to unpredictable events. Some important things to keep in mind:
- Training: Training workers on emergency preparedness ensures they understand their roles and responsibilities when emergency situations arise. Consider arranging training drills for emergency responders and workers to practice emergency procedures together.
- Consult with experts: Consult with local health agencies and other public safety officials to review plans and incorporate any necessary workplace safety requirements into an emergency action plan.
- Designate personnel: Designate key personnel to coordinate with responders and inventory and maintain emergency equipment and supplies. Employers should also designate emergency contact persons who are knowledgeable about the facility’s hazards and processes, designate a site or alternative facility for communications in the event a primary facility is inaccessible, and establish a chain of command for emergencies.
- Establish processes and procedures: Ensure processes are in place for reporting emergencies, ensuring organized escape routes, and accounting for workers following an evacuation. Emergency numbers should also be posted in the workplace for quick access to local first responders, and contact information for employees, clients, and suppliers should be kept organized and accessible in the event of an emergency.
- Maintain emergency systems: Ensure emergency systems are working and routinely inspected. This includes fire detectors / extinguishers, emergency escapes, and alarms, which should be distinctive and easily recognized. Ensure any necessary PPE, administrative controls, and work practices are available should high-hazard emergencies arise.
COVID-19 Safety Tips
Workplace emergencies are not limited to natural disasters or accidents that cause physical damage; they can involve exposure to harmful substances, occupational disease and viruses. The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is a prime example of a different type of workplace emergency. As we’ve seen in recent months, employers nationwide have had to make many workplace safety changes amid COVID-19.
Though these events are not the norm, employers and workers can take specific steps to protect against risks posed by health emergencies like COVID-19. These include:
- Conducting daily health checks
- Provide PPE and training on proper use, as well as disinfecting products, hand-wash stations, and other supplies to help keep workplaces clean
- Conducting hazard assessments to identify COVID-19 risks in the workplace
- Encouraging the use of cloth face coverings in the workplace, and addressing any risks they may pose, especially heat stress
- Implementing policies and practices for social distancing on worksites
- Improving building ventilation systems
- Adopting policies for reporting illnesses, notifying potentially exposed workers, and quarantining
Steps to Take if You Suffer a Job-Related Injury Or Illness
If you or someone you love has been hurt on the job, it’s imperative that you seek medical attention as soon possible, notify your employer, and consult with experienced attorneys like those at The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., to learn more about your rights and options.
As a law firm focused exclusively on personal injury and workers’ compensation law, our team is available to help injured workers and their families navigate the legal process for securing the compensation they need. Call or contact us to request a free consultation.