Nature isn’t always kind to industrial job sites. In fact, it can often be downright ugly. High winds, floods, fires, earthquakes and tornadoes are just some of the natural disasters that can ruin a project. But disasters can also be manmade. These can include toxic gas releases, chemical spills, explosions and more.
Whether natural or manmade, disasters disrupt operations and put workers at risk. They can also have a huge financial impact on the business. That’s why preparing for emergencies before they happen is so important for employee safety. Having a plan in place lets people know where to go and what to do to when a disaster strikes. It also helps reduce the panic and confusion that occurs when a disaster hits. This allows everyone on the job site to think more clearly and respond in a logical manner.
Creating a Preparedness Plan
An emergency action plan outlines the actions employers and workers should take during fires and other emergencies. OSHA requires some employers to establish an emergency safety plan. These include companies that work with hazardous waste, toxic chemicals and grain handling facilities. Other companies are not required to have a plan. Even so, it’s always a good idea to have one as it helps protect your workers and your business.
To create an effective disaster readiness plan:
Identify potential disasters.
In order to prescribe proper safety measures, you first have to know what could happen. Is the area where you work prone to weather disasters, such as earthquakes, flooding or tornadoes? Does your business involve working with toxic chemicals or hazardous materials? Is the landscape in a high fire-risk area? Make a list of all possible disasters, even those with a small chance of happening.
Prepare for the worst.
Next, create worst-case scenarios involving the disasters that could befall your business. If a tornado hit the job site, how much damage would it cause? If you suffered a toxic spill, how far would the danger zone extend? If a fire started, could it create other risks, such as explosions or lethal fumes. What are the worst injuries that could result from the disaster?
Create an emergency plan.
Now that you know what disasters could happen, the next step is to create an action plan to deal with them. The plan should:
-Assign actions and responsibilities to the right people
-Identify the lines of communication
-Provide guidelines for evacuation
-Identify safety measures for those who can’t evacuate
To get a complete picture of what could occur and how to respond to it, managers and workers should contribute during the planning phase.
Train the troops.
There’s a reason schools and hospitals practice fire drills. Even though the fire isn’t real, it lets people practice what to do when it is. On the job site, workers should be trained on how to use emergency equipment. They should also know when and where to evacuate the site. For example, if people work on aerial lifts, they should know how to get down quickly. Practicing safety procedures is important because people are calmer when they know what to do. The higher the risk of a disaster, the more often you should practice the drills.
Protect your data.
Employee safety always comes first. But don’t forget to safeguard your data. Industrial companies must keep volumes of data regarding plans, projects, permits, equipment, employees and much more. Some of this is in paper form. Some is in electronic form. Both types can be easily destroyed in a disaster.
To protect it, make a list of all the places you store critical data and back it up. If it’s paper, make copies and store in a different location. If it’s digital, make regular backups; at least once a week. Store the backups in a different location than your computer servers. These days, the easiest way to back up data is through a cloud service.
Have ample insurance coverage.
Industrial companies should have three types of loss prevention coverage:
-Liability – In case employees or citizens get injured
-Property damage – In case your project and/or equipment get destroyed
-Negligence – To protect against lawsuits resulting from damage and/or injuries due to faulty work
This kind of insurance can be costly, and it won’t cover all damages. But the cost is nothing compared to the damages you might have to pay from a major lawsuit. Make sure your business is covered to the largest amount possible.
Keep your emergency plan up to date.
Things change quickly in today’s world. New projects, new employees, new equipment – all present good reasons to review and update your disaster preparedness plan.
Disasters often happen when we least expect it. Being prepared when it occurs can help minimize damage to your employees and equipment, and hopefully prevent loss of life.