Just Putting It Out There – How to Survive a Workplace Disaster

Behemoth, the Sea Monster, Movie, 1959

Behemoth, the Sea Monster, Movie, 1959

Seriously. Does everyone in your facility know what to do in the event of a disaster? You know those events that come out of the blue when you least expect them, like an earthquake, burst pipe or Giant Behemoth. Are you sure? Have you recently had employee turnover, hired additional workers or temporary staff? Have you had a drill this year or recently checked that the emergency equipment is in place and operational?  You know your life could depend on that answer so better make pretty damn sure.

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There’s a cycle we are all too familiar with and seem to love. We get into this great rhythm at work and hit a nice long streak where production is running so smooth, machinery is running true, shift to shift, day to day, it’s like on auto-pilot. Man this is heaven, as we’re lulled into a false security and slowly ease into being complacent as we begin to forget checking critical areas, begin to cut corners, even when that near miss occurred and you all most lost a finger.  It woke you up but not enough.  Then one day IT happens. IT can come in many forms, from the fury of Nature as an earthquake, forest fire, blizzard, tornado, flood, hurricane or tropical storm to man made as a toxic chemical spill, oil spill, fire, noxious fumes, explosion or medical emergency.  IT usually happens very fast, totally unexpected and out of the blue. it’s immediate! Up and in your face so fast you have only seconds to think and react! How you and your team respond to IT can determine the outcome of whether you and your fellow workers will survive or die.

There are things you can do to keep the staff focused and safe instead of letting luck run your safety program.

Training – Do it annually involving everyone, managers, supervisors, forepeople, workers.  No matter how long someone has been on the job, it’s always good to refresh their knowledge especially if there have been changes in procedures, equipment or disaster reporting protocol.  Each person should have a designated job in the event of an emergency.  Who notifies 911 with the important information of type of chemical spilled, what it reacts with.  Who begins to deal with the emergency and what determines to just “shelter and place”.

Scheduled inspection of all equipment and machinery used in the event of a disaster.  Make a list and document when and who tested it as different items require inspections at different intervals.  The manufacturer’s guidelines offers the best suggestions for this and how to handle any needed repairs.  You should include shut-off valves, bypass mechanisms, venting system, respirators, PPE and hazmat suits.  To get everyone involved rotate the inspecting of equipment between the staff and above all when equipment is found to be in need of repair, immediately red tag it so no one uses it in error and then have the necessary repairs properly done.

Drills – Do an emergency drill at least once a year and make sure to cover all shifts.  The tendency is to do drills only on day shift when most of upper management is around.  Make sure swing and grave do drills as well as disasters don’t occur when it’s best for you, they happen when they want too.  For your annual drills cover everything from calls that need to me made to wearing the PPE, gloves, breathing apparatus, hazmat suits, emergency survival locker, evacuation plan, and emergency response requirements. Make sure everyone knows and understands how they need to work together to survive an emergency.

Even if your company doesn’t do these things mentioned above, as the shift manager, superintendent, supervisor or foreperson you can still cover these items with your staff by using safety tailgate/toolbox meetings and going over the procedures once a week.  Keeping it fresh in their mind will give everyone a better chance at survival if you should ever have to deal with IT on your shift.

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