SAFETY BY TOM O’CONNOR
First and foremost, employers should
have an emergency action plan that deals
with different weather-related scenarios.
Typically, a good emergency action plan
includes suitable shelter locations for
employees, policies to ensure all workers are accounted for and procedures
to address any hazardous materials that
may become displaced and harmful to
personnel after a storm.
During spring and summer, thunderstorms are common throughout the
country. As a result, employers and
workers must be cognizant of potentially
severe weather. Radios, televisions and
mobile devices can be invaluable tools
for tracking the most up-to-date forecast.
Meteorologists can predict hazardous storms and notify the public
with watches and warnings. A watch
indicates a storm is possible, while a
warning indicates a storm is imminent
and severe weather has been spotted.
Unfortunately, despite these warnings,
people are killed and seriously injured
every year. While some of these victims
are unaware of the dangers, others simply ignore them.
According to the American Red
Cross Guide for Thunderstorm Safety
and Severe Weather, “Every thunderstorm produces lightning, which kills
more people each year than tornadoes
or hurricanes.” When storm conditions
produce lightning, personnel must take
shelter indoors or in a vehicle with all
windows rolled up. Thunderstorms can
produce heavy rain, flash flooding and
high winds, so it is important to guard
against these hazards as well.
Severe thunderstorms can also generate
tornadoes. A tornado’s strength is mea-
sured on the Fujita Scale with ratings
from F0 (weakest) to F5 (strongest).
Although severe tornadoes are more
common in the middle of the United
States, they can occur in every state.
Often, tornadoes arise quickly, and
authorities may not be able to provide
much warning. Green or funnel clouds,
roaring sounds and hail indicate a tor-
nado is possible. All personnel must
be familiar with community warn-
ing systems, such as sirens, air horns,
emergency news bulletins and even
cell phone alerts. Once a warning is
issued, all personnel must go to an
underground shelter, basement or safe
room. If no such shelters or safe rooms
are available, individuals should seek
refuge in a small, windowless interior
room or hallway on the lowest level of
a sturdy building. Temporary or mobile
structures are not sufficient shelters.
In the event that you are caught outdoors during a tornado, get into a vehicle
and attempt to drive to the nearest shelter. If you encounter flying debris, pull
over and park. Stay in the vehicle with
a seat belt on and your head below the
windows while covering yourself with
Unlike tornadoes, hurricanes come
with plenty of advanced notice. Hur-
ricanes can produce wind speeds
exceeding 155 miles per hour. Hurricane
season runs from May 15 through Nov.
30 and typically has the greatest effect on
Employers in potentially affected
regions should ensure workers are
familiar with hurricane evacuation
routes. It is also important they know
where to go in the event that an evacuation becomes necessary. In preparation
for a hurricane, all windows must be
covered or boarded up. In high-risk
areas, structures are usually equipped
with permanent storm shutters.
Prior to the storm, personnel should
move any equipment or items that could
become debris or get damaged. Employers may also consider clearing loose and
clogged rain gutters or downspouts,
reinforcing garage doors and installing
straps or additional clips to securely fasten roofs to building frames.
Calm after the storm
Once a storm has passed, recovery
efforts begin, which come with their
own hazards, such as downed electrical wires, gas leaks, carbon monoxide
and electrical hazards from portable
generators, fall and struck-by hazards
from tree trimming or structural damage, being caught in unprotected
excavations or confined spaces, and
contaminated water. Personnel must
not lower their guard after a storm
passes and also must be aware of how
to safely navigate these dangers.
For more information on storm safety
or preparedness, visit www.osha.gov,
www.fema.gov or www.noaa.gov.
Enduring Mother Nature
Summer storm safety
EVERY YEAR, PREVENTABLE, WEATHER-RELATED INJURIES and deaths
occur both on and off the job. With the summer storm season in full swing, employers and employees must educate themselves about the dangers associated with
thunderstorms, tornadoes and hurricanes. Doing so will help to protect people and
property from Mother Nature’s wrath.
O’CONNO R is safety and regulatory affairs manager for Intec, a safety consulting, training
and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and
software for contractors. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. B .