Unfortunately, in today’s environment, preparing for a disaster in the workplace is essential. Though no one wants to think that something bad could happen to them, the truth is, it could happen to anymore, no matter where you are.
While this may sound alarming, and it is, there is less of a need to worry if you know that your office is prepared for these situations. As an HR professional, having a plan for a potential disaster can help keep employees safe.
Here are three common natural and manmade disasters that can impact your workplace and how to prepare and protect your employees:
Just like in school when you were young, it’s important to practice fire safety drills and evacuations. This rarely happens in the workplace, even though it is just as likely to occur in a place of employment as it is a school or home. This is especially true if you work in a high rise building, as many urban residents do.
Depending on where your company is located, there are certain regulations that must be followed. Most workplaces are aware of safety codes designated by their local Fire Marshall, including not blocking exits and having clear pathways, but practicing fire safety drills is not legally required by OSHA.
Preparing for a Workplace Fire Emergency
As an HR professional, here are the basics that you should be aware of and communicate to your employees to help keep them safe in the event of a fire.
Have an Evacuation Plan
- Write an evacuation plan. The United States Department of Labor has an eTool that lets you create your own Emergency Evacuation Plan (EAP) online with easy guided prompts that you can then print out and give to employees.
- Review the evacuation plan with all employees and identify all building exits.
- Post an evacuation map and emergency contact information where all employees can see it.
- Practice your evacuation plan with all employees regularly.
Remind Staff: Don’t Try to Be a Hero
In the event of a fire, it’s important to try not to be a ‘hero.’ Firefighters are trained to go back into a burning building and doing it yourself can not only jeopardize you and other employees, but make the situation worse. One way to avoid this is to designate a fire warden, who ensures that all employees are out of the building (if possible), and that emergency services are called. A backup employee can also be designated in case the original person is unable to perform their duties.
Active Shooter Situations
In 2015, the employees of the French publication, Charlie Hebdo, didn’t expect an active shooter situation the morning they headed to work. No employee does, but with the unfortunate reality of our world, we must add active shooter preparations to the list of workplace disasters. The good thing is, the more prepared your employees are, the better off they will be if a situation like this does arise.
Preparing for an Active Shooter Emergency
As an HR professional, here is how to prepare your employees for an active shooter situation in the workplace.
Train Employees on the Proper Protocol
Many like to think that they would know what to do in a situation such as this, but you truly never do. Thankfully, there is a lot of standard information available now as to what to do in an active shooter situation. Informing employees on proper protocol is critical to making sure that everyone is unharmed, as much as you can control.
- Run and escape (if you can safely)
- Know where the exits are (especially the emergency ones)
- Hide out of sight (not in groups)
- Stay as quiet as possible (don’t even whisper)
- Barricade yourself (anything can be a barrier between you and the attacker)
- Gang up on the attacker (always a LAST resort)
Ensure Education, Not Paranoia
Always remember, and explain to your employees, that the point of having an active shooter training isn’t to scare them, it’s to prepare them. Partnering with local law enforcement can help put a professional tone on the training program. You may want to also ask employees about potential points of discomfort to make sure everyone feels comfortable. There are a plethora of resources online through the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency, including an Active Shooter EAP template.
Earthquakes can be devastating to the communities that they touch, and they can occur at any time, even in the middle of the day while you’re at work. Especially if you live in an earthquake prone state like California or Washington, it’s important to know what to do to protect your employees in the event of an earthquake.
Preparing for an Earthquake Emergency
Here are important tips to review with employees to ensure they are prepared for an earthquake emergency.
Drop, Cover, & Hold On
- Drop to the floor and curl up into a ball on your knees.
- Cover your head with your arms.
- Hold on to something sturdy (if it’s available).
Avoid Tall or Loose Objects and Structures
Stay away from things that are loose or placed above you that could fall on you if you’re not at your desk or don’t have one. No matter where you are, you can take cover by still obeying the three commands with whatever’s available to you.
Most likely, there will be aftershocks, so resist the urge to move after you think it’s over. It’s advised that you stay down until the ground stops shaking, but be warned that the aftershocks can occur for a few days after, so it’s advised that you be self-sufficient for the next few days.
Evacuate — With Caution
Don’t use the elevator, as the power could be out in your building. It may be safe to use the stairs, but make sure you don’t use the elevator after an earthquake. If you drive after an earthquake, it’s advised to be cautious.
General Workplace Disaster Preparation Necessities
No matter the emergency, there are a few tips that are relevant to every situation. Here are a few of the most important ones:
- Have an evacuation plan and map that every employee is aware of and can see displayed prominently in the office. This includes making sure that your employees are aware of the designated meeting place stationed away from the office in the event of an emergency.
- Have a system for accounting for all your employees’ safety in the event of an emergency, such as the buddy partnering system or an attendance sheet with each employee’s name on it.
- Assign an employee or two that can take care of critical tasks in an emergency, such as the fire warden, who can check to see that everyone is safe and who can grab the first aid kit to assist injured victims once at the designated meeting place.
- Give each employee a personal first aid/survival kit that is in an easy ‘grab and go’ form, such as a backpack. This can be filled with basic tools, food, first aid supplies, and more, and can be personalized to fit each employee’s needs.
- Make sure to have a stockpile of mass supplies in the workplace, no matter the size of the company, such as sufficient water supply. (1 gallon per person per day, with three days average supply) Ample food supplies (for each employee for 3 days minimum) and tools (such as flashlights, batteries, and a radio), are also important parts of the stockpile. This is important in the event of an earthquake, but also in the event of another emergency, whether manmade or not, to have in the workplace.
About Greenlink Payroll
At Greenlink Payroll, we care about more than just offering HR professionals a cloud-based user friendly software for payroll processing, we care about the safety of your company too. When you’re prepared, from keeping your company safe from disasters to mastering traditional HR tasks like benefits enrollment, everyone wins. For more information, visit us online or contact us today.
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