Tropical storms have already begun churning in the Atlantic Ocean and into the Gulf of Mexico, with the most recent, Andrea, drenching the Georgia coast and reminding all employers of the importance of being prepared.
Our Atlanta workers' compensation lawyers know that Georgia is no stranger to tropical storms, hurricanes, tornadoes and other severe weather.
As the curtain opens on the 2013 hurricane season this month, the U.S. Occupational Health & Safety Administration wants workers to know they have a right to a safe workplace free of known hazards and dangers. It's a given that major storms and other severe weather is going to occur. Employers have a duty to be prepared for it.
Generally, this means ensuring that workers are sheltered and/or protected and not sent out into perilous elements without proper training and tools.
The first step in that is having a clear plan. OSHA advises employers to:
- Establish what kinds of conditions will activate the plan. For example, perhaps a certain wind strength would trigger the plan.
- List a chain of command, so that there is no confusion about who will play what role in the event of an emergency.
- Figure out a list of functions that will be necessary in an emergency, and decide exactly who will perform them.
- Have a specific list of evacuation procedures, which will include certain routes and exits so workers are clear on what to do.
- Work on a procedure that will help the company account for personnel, customers and visitors in case of an emergency. This way, if someone does go missing, the employer will know sooner, which can be valuable information for rescue personnel.
- Provide proper equipment for workers to ensure safety in all conditions.
Some employers are legally required to have an Emergency Action Plan, per 29 CFR 1910.39.
In addition to having clear evacuation plans, it's imperative for companies to have clear plans to be followed by those workers who are preparing to stay and perform critical functions during the storm. Part of this means becoming familiar with the language used to warn about hurricanes and other severe weather, as well as the emergency plans of the local community, which will include nearby shelters.
Workers who are remaining on site should be provided with basic disaster supplies to help them ride out a storm. Those include:
- Water (one gallon per person per day for at least three days, for both drinking and sanitation);
- Food (a three-day supply of food that is non-perishable);
- Battery-powered weather radio and batteries;
- First aid kit;
- Flashlights and extra batteries;
- Moist towelettes and garbage bags;
- Whistle to signal for help;
- Dust mask to help filter contaminated air;
- Cell phones with chargers, solar charger or inverter;
- Local maps;
- Manual can opener.
Keep in mind that these are only guidelines. Other items may be necessary, depending on the kind of work you expect employees to perform during the storm and its aftermath.
Especially keep in mind the heat index. If you expect workers to be outside in post-storm conditions without air conditioning, make sure they are aware of heat-related illnesses, are provided with enough water and take frequent breaks in the shade.
If you or a loved one has been injured on the job, contact J. Franklin Burns, P.C., to speak with an experienced attorney. For a free consultation call 1-404-303-7770 today.
Hurricane Preparedness, Occupational Safety & Health Administration
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Extreme Heat Kills Georgia Auto Plant Worker, Employers Urged to Use Caution, June 14, 2013, Atlanta Workers' Compensation Lawyer Blog