October 18, 2007 marks a date most Nappanee, Indiana residents will remember forever. A class F3 tornado struck this historic town of seven thousand, cutting a quarter mile path of destruction. Although the tornado occurred at 10:30 p.m., several businesses were open at the time of the disaster. Amazingly, there were no fatalities, in spite of the 107 workplaces and over 300 homes that were either destroyed or damaged. Quick thinking and preparedness saved countless lives. The model for this town, its citizens and workers, is to be emulated.
Workplace emergencies happen in many forms, from violence to fires, chemical spills, severe weather, and explosions. How prepared are you for a crisis on the job? Do you know what to do if an emergency occurs?
Here are some tips for workplace safety:
1. Know the Hazards: There are various universals all employees have potential exposure to. Workplace violence, fire, sabotage, bomb threats, and natural disasters, are possibilities in any company. Others, such as toxic chemical exposure, are site or industry particular. Identifying hazards is the first step towards preparedness.
2. Job Specific Dangers: Risks involved with operation of heavy equipment or entrapment potential in tunnels are occupation specific. Workers responsible for locking up and making bank deposits late at night face additional threats. Be aware of potential dangers of your job.
3. Plan for Emergencies: Familiarize yourself with exit routes, first aid kits, and fire extinguishers. Identify severe weather shelter areas. Always know at least two routes of exit, in case one is impassable.
4. Be Detailed: In the event of specific hazards, such as chemical exposure, become advance knowledgeable. How are toxic substances likely to affect individuals? What are symptoms of exposure?
5. The 3 Minute Rule: Most emergencies occur swiftly. Keep necessary items, such as wallet, cell phone, keys or purse, close at hand. If a crisis occurs, be prepared to reach a place of safety within three minutes or less. Never go back for personal effects if you can’t grab them immediately.
6. Emergency Numbers: Although 911 is a nearly universal call, you should know any prompts to reach outside lines. In numerous businesses, only certain phones reach exterior service. Many require special codes, such as 9 + 911. Be aware how to contact company security and CPR administrators.
7. Involve Management: Frequently, there are warning signs of dangerous behavior prior to workplace violence, such as threats or plans to harm. Report safety concerns to management. Brainstorm with other employees or staff about unsafe conditions.
8. Disabled Workers: If you or a co-worker has special needs, discuss assistance with management. Specific employees should be assigned to aid individuals.
9. Get Personal: Keep first aid kits in your vehicle and desk at work. If a catastrophic event occurs, emergency responders may be overwhelmed with victims. Even a few bandages and tape can be essential if casualties are significant. Get CPR and first aid training through your company or community. Use weather alerts on computers or cell phones to be notified of inclement conditions.
10. Don’t Panic: Those most likely to survive a crisis are individuals who remain calm. Maintain a level head by breathing deeply. Focus on the immediate circumstances.
Thankfully, most crisis situations are easily contained through preparation and hazard recognition. Follow these tips for enhancing your awareness and workplace safety.