Well here we are folks, more than half way down the Green Brick Road of Safety. It’s been an enlightening trip for me as well and I want to thank you all for the positive responses and great comments on this series on warehouse safety. As I’m sure you remember, we had previously been introduced to Hazard Analysis, PPE and Housekeeping – The big three segments of workplace safety. So, after all this is there still more ways to protect your employees? Yes there is and it’s called Emergency Preparedness.
You’ve gone through all this effort to protect your employees on a daily basis so make sure that in the event of a sudden catastrophe you can move them out of harms way by the most expeditious manner possible and having an emergency preparedness / evacuation plan is the way to ensure this.
Whether you call them disasters, calamities, catastrophes or emergencies they are nasty little events that usually come out of no where and depending on what part of the country your warehouse is located, they can come in various sizes or forms.
Natural Disasters – Earthquakes, Forest Fires, Blizzards, Flooding, Tornadoes, Hurricanes, Tropical Storms. With some of these there is enough warning time to prepare and react but in the case of earthquakes there is no such warning. Some of these disasters lead to others as Hurricanes can create flooding, lightening can create forest fires and Tornadoes & earthquakes can also lead to fires. In each case they should be taken seriously as you never know the extent of damage that will occur.
PREPARATION – Know the evacuation route and meeting place. Know what ever the emergency signal sounds like. Is it a whistle, alarm bell? Where is the disaster provisions locker? You don’t know how long it will be before you can either leave the area or help will be able to get to you so having an emergency provisions locker filled with bottled water, food, first aid kit, blankets, flashlights, radio, batteries and other provisions can come in handy. In earthquake country it’s also a good idea to have a wrench in the kit as well and know where all, the gas shut off valves are located. Creating, organizing and replenishment of a provisions locker is a great team project for a safety committee or even for the whole company.
Man Made Disasters – (Human error) – Chemical spills, gas and other toxic fumes released, excessive dust, explosions, fires, oil spills and potential exposure to other lethal items. In some cases these can be even more devastating than a natural disaster since the area contaminated could be unusable for years, especially if the contaminants make their way into ground water or destroys natural habitats for wildlife. The BP spill as well as the Bhopal gas tragedy in 1984 are examples.
PREPARATION – Again listen and know what the emergency signals sound like and indicate. Is the alert telling you evacuation or shelter and place? If it’s evacuation, know the evacuation route and meeting place. If it’s shelter and place find the designated location and close all windows, air ducts, ventilation vents, doors and any other opening to the outside. Also use duck tape and plastic to seal them all to further prevent any fumes or gases coming in. This is another project the safety committee can work on with employees, developing and stocking small kits for shelter and place rooms with plastic sheathing and duck tape.
When it comes to any kind of liquid spill the safety of staff is the most important issue. If it’s a large spill or excessive amounts of toxic gases GET OUT OF THERE and let the professionals deal with it. However for smaller size spills make sure you know where the spill kit is located and should only handle a spill containment/cleanup if you’ve been properly trained. A spill kit usually includes booms to contain it and absorbants to soak it up. There should also be a MDS book (material data sheets – list the properties of chemicals and other materials on site, how to treat for exposure and how to handle) located nearby and clearly labeled and posted so anyone can find it. It is critical that the MDS book be kept up to date as well. (You can get more information about spill kits and other related items from Spill 911.)
Medical Emergencies – Self explanatory. Heart attacks, broken bones, head trauma, sprains and cuts. Anything where a person is physically injured at the workplace.
PREPARATION – Know the company policy for handling emergencies. Some companies just advise you to call 911 immediately. Some companies have trained employee response teams who you should contact at the number specified by the company. They are trained in CPR and first aid and can determine how serious a situation is and how to handle it. This is another opportunity to get employees involved with safety by offering CPR and first aid courses and allowing them to rotate on response teams. This can be done through your local Fire department or Chapter of the Red Cross. The same goes for dealing with fires. Use your common sense and training. If the fire is too large let the professionals handle it, but for smaller fires know where the extinguishers are located and know how to use them.
Evacuation plans and Shelter and place locations should be posted through out your facility indicating the best route to follow for escape from your present location. Review it and make sure the route doesn’t encounter any obstacles delaying evacuation. All the offices or buildings designated to be used for Shelter and place should also be clearly marked with signs.
Don’t wait until some disaster is in the news before you think about what would happen where you work if it hit! It’s just as good a time now to review your general safety disaster plan and company’s procedures for handling emergencies. Your company should at least have an annual fire/evacuation drill or an emergency preparedness drill. I worked for a short lived dot com company, and even though they held an annual evacuation drill, someone thought it was a great idea to hold it on April fools day when ever it fell on a work day. Most of the employees just rolled their eyes with annoyance and kept working. This is NOT the reaction you’re looking for.
Remember if you make any changes at the work place like new walls, new rooms, new racking and storage, installation of new equipment, or any physical changes review your evacuation plans and make sure it works.
Well that completes this portion of our journey on the GREEN BRICK ROAD OF SAFETY. Glad you joined us and enjoyed the trip. We still have just a little further to go so please watch for Volume V. (Don’t miss an issue – just enter you email address on the bottom right and get a new freshly pressed article as soon as it’s published).