In the wake of a pandemic and string of natural disasters, we’re reminded that we are not immune from unpredictable and unplanned events. By preparing for emergencies, we can better navigate tough times and keep ourselves and those we care about safe.
In recognition of National Preparedness Month 2021, The Perecman Firm, P.L.L.C., is proud to share helpful information about the need to plan for potential emergencies.
About National Preparedness Month
National Preparedness Month is an awareness initiative recognized each September to promote emergency and disaster planning. The theme for NPM 2021 is “Prepare to Protect. Preparing for disasters is protecting everyone you love.”
In addition, there are weekly themes that focus on different aspects of preparedness for individuals, families, and communities. This year’s weekly themes are:
- Week 1 (September 1-4): Make a Plan
- Week 2 (September 5-11): Build a Kit
- Week 3 (September 12-18): Low-Cost, No-Cost Preparedness
- Week 4 (September 19-25): Teach Youth About Preparedness
You can learn more about NPM and FEMA’s Ready Campaign by visiting ready.gov/September.
Preparedness in the Workplace
Employers, management, and others who oversee worksites must address conditions that pose foreseeable injury risks. While things like construction accidents and other work-related incidents come to mind, accidents are not the only emergency employers should be prepared to address. Threats involving natural disasters, health hazards (including illnesses like COVID-19), and technology-related emergencies such as power outages and equipment failure can also threaten worker safety.
In an effort to keep workers safe, employers can create comprehensive preparedness programs that establish policies for dealing with various hazards and mitigating risks to workers and the public. FEMA’s Ready Business Program is one helpful 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, physical or chemical hazards, and other 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 organizes employer and worker actions during emergencies. Plans should 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.
Planning for emergencies is an essential part of protecting workers who perform dangerous jobs, use dangerous machinery and equipment, and are vulnerable to hazardous weather conditions. This includes workers in construction, who account for 1 in 5 workplace deaths each year, according to OSHA.
In dangerous industries like these, creating effective preparedness plans can mean the difference between life and death.
Preparing Your Workplace: Tips for Employers & Site Managers
Workplace emergencies include any situation that threatens workers, customers, or the public, disrupts 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 allows employers and workers to hone their responses to unpredictable events. Some important tips as you plan for emergencies include:
- Conduct a risk assessment to identify potential hazards and possible impacts. Risk assessments should cover all scenarios and risks to workers, physical assets, technology and utility systems, and other assets. As you conduct assessments, look for vulnerabilities that could increase risks.
- Identify risk mitigation strategies to reduce potential impacts on worker safety, property, business operations, and the environment. Mitigation strategies include proper site selection, compliant fire prevention policies, uninterruptible power supplies (UPS), and emergency generators for critical equipment. Processes should be in place for reporting emergencies, ensuring organized escape routes, and accounting for workers following an evacuation.
- Develop a Crisis Communication Plan that can help you quickly communicate with workers, customers, suppliers, regulators, and neighbors near worksites. FEMA advises businesses to identify potential audiences they’ll need to reach after an emergency and tailor communications accordingly. Contact information should be compiled and immediately accessible.
- Prepare for incident management by organizing teams that will respond to emergencies in accordance with established plans. FEMA encourages businesses to create an incident management system (IMS) that uses “the combination of facilities, equipment, personnel, procedures and communications operating within a common organizational structure, designed to aid in the management of resources during incidents.”
- Prioritize employee assistance and support. Because disasters affect more than just property, businesses need to incorporate assistance for workers into their preparedness program. Programs should focus on communications with employees and families, employee assistance plans, and services with public officials or community professionals who provide both medical and mental health support after a disaster.
- Implement training to ensure workers understand their roles and responsibilities when emergency situations arise. Consider training drills that allow first responders and workers to practice emergency procedures together and designate key personnel to coordinate with responders and inventory and maintain emergency equipment and supplies after an emergency.
- Establish processes for hazard prevention and deterrence that can reduce the frequency of disasters such as fires, chemical spills, and machinery malfunction. These processes should also address the deterrence of criminal activity and cyber threats with a robust security program. OSHA has many resources to help businesses evaluate and improve workplace safety.
Steps to Take if You Suffer a Job-Related Injury
If you or someone you love has been hurt on the job, it’s imperative that you seek medical attention as soon as 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, we help injured workers and families navigate the legal process and fight for the compensation they deserve. Call (212) 577-9325 or contact us to request a free consultation.