Despite the migration of millions of American employees to home offices, 78 percent of the U.S. workforce still report for duty at a company facility, at least part-time. I love reporting to the firehouse. So, safety in the workplace remains of paramount importance. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there were approximately 2.9 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses reported by private industry employers in 2016, which occurred at a rate of 2.9 cases per 100 full-time workers.
Potential causes of workplace injuries and death range from fatigue (due to inadequate ergonomics or overexertion); substance abuse; slips, trips and falls; to natural and manmade disasters, including workplace violence. If a major emergency occurs or you get hurt on the job, everyone pays the price—in down time, lost productivity, low morale and economic impacts. Sounds like it would be better to avoid the whole thing! But when we work together to create a safer place to work, we’re all more productive and satisfied with our jobs and business operations are better prepared to recover.
For the purposes of this post, we will focus on workplace safety before, during and after disasters.
The U.S. Department of Laborestimates two million people fall victim to workplace violence each year. Employees in retail and healthcare are particularly vulnerable, but it can happen anywhere. Working with your local police department can help you control risk and plan for incidents that might occur. Whatever the cause of the workplace emergency, your attitudes and actions can impact your ability to survive the situation. Whether manmade (terrorist attack or coworker’s violent aggression) or natural (severe weather or earthquake), workplace disasters require specific preparation and reactions. I guess that applies to feline-made disasters, too?
Official Safety Training
One way to make sure you are ready is to complete Community Emergency Response Team training (CERT). The CERT program supports local response capability by training volunteers to spontaneously organize themselves at the disaster site, to provide immediate assistance to victims, and to collect disaster intelligence to support responders’ efforts when they arrive. But CERT is not the only way to prepare yourself for a workplace emergency. Wherever you work, you play a critical role in creating a safe and healthy workplace for everyone by following pre-established emergency procedures and measures.
To help, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has produced a free booklet about citizen preparedness, which may help you if disaster strikes when you are at work. Entitled “Are You Ready?”—the in-depth guide walks readers through steps to take to keep them safe in any hazardous situation. I want my wife and J.R. to read this guide, too. We all need to be ready! FEMA’s awareness campaign is called: “Disasters Don’t Plan Ahead. You Can.” That’s wise advice for employers as well as individuals.Emergency response planning can save lives, reduce the number of injuries, and prevent loss of property.
To be safe at work, before disaster strikes:
- Identify potential workplace hazards and safety roles and responsibilities. Know that workplace disasters can strike at any time, with little or no warning.
- Conduct a job safety analysis to establish proper work procedures to help prevent workplace injuries and illnesses.
- Executives and safety officers must keep communication open to make sure workers are comfortable with learning and offer feedback.
- Maximize personal safety at your regular workspace. Keep area free from clutter.
- Participate in safety training drills. “Practice makes perfect!)
- Report hazards, incidents, and near-misses.
- Take steps to control flammable and combustible materials in your department and make sure they do not pose a fire or explosion hazard. (For example, large accumulations of waste paper or other combustible materials can pose fire risk.)
- Ask for help, when needed, to maintain your safety.
- Assemble a disaster supplies kit.
- Obey “No Smoking” rules. Careless disposal of cigarettes and matches can lead to fires and explosions.
- Store and handle hazardous materials properly, according to the instructions on the label and on the safety data sheet. Or here’s a thought – don’t handle hazardous materials at all?
- Use and maintain equipment properly. Always a good idea!
During & After an Emergency:
- Stay alert. Just as you drive defensively on the road, use the same caution at work.
- Know the risks and danger signs.
- Don’t get into situations you are not trained to handle.
- Identify at least two ways out of any potentially hazardous situation.
- Volunteer to help others. My mom always taught everyone in her litter to “do unto others”
- Listen to officials for information about evacuation or sheltering in place.
- Repair damaged property.
- Take steps to prevent or reduce future loss.
About the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Services System
No matter the type of emergency you may face while at work, take steps to make sure you are safe. Our interactive, building-specific e-learning program helps commercial, residential, educational, institutional, government, retail and industrial buildings with compliance to fire life safety codes and rewards building occupants instantly! It’s a convenient and affordable solution to the training needs of your facility. Click here for more information or to subscribe.