Natural disasters can create a multitude of safety, wellness, and health concerns for workers in the affected areas. Emergency preparedness plays an essential role in ensuring employees and employers are safe when natural disasters strike.
Occupational health and safety professionals are not only responsible for regulatory policy compliance and enforcement, but they also ensure people are safe while at work during crises. As part of the job, they prepare for natural disasters—tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, wildfires, and floods—long before they happen. They make plans, make sure employees are prepared, and ensure the proper equipment is in place. Because natural disasters can be unpredictable, advance preparation is essential, experts such as the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said.
OSHA mandates companies with 10 or more employees have written emergency action plans (EAPs) that outline procedures such as hazardous incident reporting and emergency evacuations. OSHA officials say a well-developed safety plan that is appropriately communicated will reduce workplace injuries and hazards.
A CareerBuilder survey found 17 percent of U.S. workers do not feel well protected in their workplace in the event of a fire, flood or another disaster. Another 22 percent do not believe their companies have emergency plans in place in the case of such events.
“As an employer, you have an obligation to protect your employees by every means possible, and having an emergency plan in place to deal with unforeseen events is part of that,” says Rosemary Haefner, chief human resources officer at CareerBuilder. “However, an emergency plan is only as good as how well it is communicated. It is crucial that employees not only know about this plan, but have easy access to it and participate in regular drills so they know how to protect themselves and others.”
For anyone considering a career as an occupational health and safety specialist, emergency planning is at the crux of position. They must understand and be able to enact safety precautions before, during, and after emergency situations to ensure employees are safe and the company continues to operate.
Natural disasters are classified by geographic area (earthquakes, typhoons, landslides, and floods) and atmospheric conditions (tornado, drought, lightning, and cyclone). Other natural hazards that don’t fit into a single category include infectious disease epidemics, insect infections, and wildfires. Natural disasters are further classified by size and impact on people (called catastrophic hazards) and amount of time (called rapid or slow onset hazards).
Hazards also have three different consequences:
Organizations that include the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) suggest safety experts take basic steps to prepare their workplaces for natural disasters:
Occupational safety professionals are also responsible for constructing a clear chain of command, creating signals and alerts that indicate impending dangers, and assessing dangers for severity.
At Eastern Kentucky University, online baccalaureate students who study occupational safety learn about employee safety education, the role of OSHA in the workplace, and ways to identify workplace hazards
Students enrolled in the online Bachelor of Science in Occupational Safety program also minor in Fire and Safety Engineering Technology, which provides a broad-based understanding of fire science and emergency decision-making.
About Eastern Kentucky University’s Online Bachelor Of Science In Occupational Safety
Students enrolled in the EKU online Bachelor of Science In Occupational Safety learn advanced-level occupational safety skills that prepare them for careers in the public and private sector. The university’s faculty members are industry leaders who are committed to preparing the next generation of experts.
The program’s online format allows students to continue their home and career responsibilities while earning an advanced degree. For more information, contact EKU now.