Natural and manmade disasters like hurricanes, earthquakes, fires, and security breaches can and will affect hundreds of businesses across the United States. Often disasters pose costly threats to businesses — both in terms of financial hardship and employee safety. Last year, we discussed you how important it is to have a business continuity plan, but it’s even more important to keep employee safety top of mind.
What businesses don’t realize is that maintaining employee safety during and after a disaster actually begins before the disaster even occurs. Follow these vital steps to promoting and ensuring employee safety if the unthinkable happens:
- Identify potential disasters, threats, and hazards
The first step to ensuring business continuity and employee safety after a disaster is to identify potential threats and hazards prior to their occurence. If you are a business owner or higher up and have not yet sat down with a sheet of paper to brainstorm every potential disaster the business may face, now is the time to do so. Statistically, disaster is unpredictable and can strike at any minute…the last thing anyone wants is to be caught off-guard and end up with injured employees at the workplace.
This step involves listing out potential disasters and threats to the business and its employees. Think along the lines of natural disasters, security breaches, stolen information, and building fires. Then, workplace hazards should be identified. These might include heavy items on high shelves, high voltage equipment, large file cabinets that could fall in the event of an earthquake, and obstacles or obstructions for employees to evacuate the building.
- Secure the space
After all workplace threats and hazards have been addressed, the space needs to be secured and made safer for employees. Think about how each item and office structure could cause a potential safety hazard in the event of shaking, floods, and evacuation. Move or secure furniture and heavy items to mitigate these safety concerns and ensure a clear evacuation path. Additionally, make sure data and important documents are stored on a backup drive located outside of the workplace.
- Create a plan for safety
As I mentioned earlier, a business continuity plan is of the utmost importance in promoting the safety of a business. A business will want to use it as the blueprint for dealing with disaster mitigation, reaction, and restoration. In conjunction with this business-oriented safety plan, a detailed outline of employee disaster safety procedures should be created. This might include the following items: Employee injury prevention guidelines, evacuation routes, employee compensation and work location in the event of a business or workplace shutdown, a contingency plan in the event of an employee shut-in that keeps people in the office for multiple days, and improvement of employee data security.
- Organize disaster supplies
When a disaster occurs, members of a business or organization will need to be self-sufficient in case first responders aren’t available. In extreme disasters, it’s not unlikely that everyday citizens will be tasked with mitigating threats, maintaining safety, and preserving human life. Enable employees to do so by equipping them with the proper disaster supplies. Identify what the necessities could be in the first minutes, hours, and days after an emergency — for example, first aid kits, food, water, flashlights, blankets, etc. Either work to procure all the items individually, or invest in a larger workplace safety kit with trusted supplies that have been proven critical in the life preserving process.
- Train employees in up-to-date safety practices and encourage their home safety
When an employee safety plan is created, it should be done with close attention to the up-to-date training necessary for employees to understand best safety practices. Likely, a business will establish evacuation routes, earthquake safety protocols, and shelter in place. Part of employee safety training should include a run-through or a drill for each disaster protocol so that every member of a workplace will know what to do in the moment if a disaster occurs. It’s also a good idea to include training regarding home safety, since unpreparedness could affect an employee’s ability to make it to the office after a disaster that occurs outside of work hours. If a business loses employees after a disaster, it will be hard to implement the business continuity plan and resume operations.
- Make sure life safety is the number one priority
During a disaster, human life safety should be the number one priority. Treating it as such will set an example and show employees that their safety is important and worthwhile. When a disaster occurs, make sure everyone in the workplace is accounted for and assisted.