Since earthquakes occur either at home or work without warning and can cause extensive damage, emergency preparedness is key in keeping everyone safe from harm. Unfortunately, many businesses are simply not prepared for this type of natural disaster, leaving their employees at risk. However, earthquake preparedness does not have to take an exorbitant amount of time and effort.
To get started in improving earthquake safety in the workplace, consider taking the following steps.
Create a Comprehensive Disaster Plan
No matter the size of the company, earthquake preparedness starts with a comprehensive plan. The plan should outline everything employees need to know to stay safe, including:
- Safest places to hide from debris during the earthquake
- Drop, cover, and hold procedures
- Official evacuation routes for the building
- Location of all safety gear, including first aid kits and fire extinguishers
While creating the safety procedures, think about each employee in the workplace, creating a plan of action for them to follow during this emergency event. Account for people with disabilities or mobility issues to ensure they have assistance. Once there is a full plan in place, post the emergency information in an easily accessible area and go over it often.
Remove Potential Hazards from the Workplace
Earthquakes can send the heaviest items toppling over and falling from above. Unsecured shelves, cabinets, and other hazards can cause serious injury or even death as they fall over. Business owners need to check their workplace from top to bottom in identifying and removing these hazards to adequately prepare for an earthquake.
While going through the building, look for and fix common hazards, such as:
- Fully-loaded file cabinets
- Large light fixtures
- Loose monitors and other electronic devices
- Heavy paintings and other wall hangings
Bolt down any heavy furniture found during this search using heavy-duty hardware and tethers. In addition to providing protection during an earthquake, bolting these items down will improve everyday workplace safety.
Create Safe Spots to Find Cover and Practice the Procedures
To stay safe during an earthquake, people need to drop, cover, and hold on, according to the United States Geological Survey and other safety experts across the nation. This means they need to be able to drop to the ground immediately upon noticing the shaking and find cover under a desk, table, or other sturdy structure.
To make this possible, the workplace needs to have sturdy, well-secured structures in every room. Also, employees need to be notified about those key areas to find cover during an earthquake —and have time to practice the right procedures. Hold regular earthquake drills for your crew and go through the procedures together, answering all questions along the way.
Follow these steps to complete each drill:
- Inform workers about the alarm and how to respond in the event of an emergency
- Set off the alarm to alert the workforce to the emergency event
- Wait for everyone to find cover and hold on tightly while covering their heads
- Allow everyone to evacuate the building once the shaking is deemed over
- Meet the group at the predefined assembly point
- Complete the roll call to see if anyone is missing from the group
- Evaluate the group’s efforts and offer constructive criticism to help them improve
Also, consider participating in the national Great ShakeOut event each year to reinforce the importance of the practice sessions.
Build an Emergency Kit for the Whole Crew
Earthquakes can result in damage to the area’s infrastructure and leave people stranded at work for an extended period of time. In addition, the shaking can disrupt the delivery of power and water to the building they are in.
When this happens, they need to be able to rely on the resources in their workplace to stay in good shape while they wait for help. Therefore, the workplace needs to have a large enough emergency kit to support everyone for several days in a row.
In building a workplace earthquake preparedness kit, include:
- Clean drinking water in bottles or tanks
- Non-perishable food, such as canned meals and granola bars
- Battery-powered radio
- Fully-stocked first aid kit
- Space blankets
Encourage all employees to create mini-emergency kits of their own as well with changes of clothes, necessary medications, and personal hygiene supplies. Keep everything in a safe, secure place that will likely remain accessible after an earthquake.
Offer Additional Training on Safety and First Aid
Although it does not need to be mandatory, employees can benefit from access to additional safety training courses throughout the year. Set up chances to take first aid training, CPR classes, and emergency preparedness courses to help learn helpful safety skills. To find these courses, check with the Red Cross and local community colleges.
With that training, people can act as key players in maintaining workplace safety during and after an earthquake. Their training will also likely benefit them in the event of other emergency situations both at work and at home.
With the right approach, business owners can go a long way in improving earthquake safety in the workplace.
Get started with the steps above to help keep workers safe in the event of an earthquake. Then, continually improve by following all the latest guidelines from the Red Cross, United States Geological Survey, and other leaders in this realm.
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Funded, in part, through a Cooperative Agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration. All opinions, and/or recommendations expressed herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SBA.