The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is responsible for ensuring that employers across the country provide employees with a safe workplace that doesn’t negatively affect their health. Many of these risks are man-made, but what about the fury of Mother Nature?
In part one of this two-part series covering flood preparedness and response, an OSHA lawyer discussed how floods form and the employer’s responsibilities and legal obligations to their employees. Now, we will summarize the two main facets of OSHA’s flood guidelines: preparedness and response/recovery.
OSHA views preparedness as a three-pronged strategy. Planning comes first, and requires employers to have an evacuation plan in place prior to the arrival of a flood. This is one of the most effective strategies for mitigating confusion, avoiding injuries, and streamlining project site egress. Your evacuation plan should take into account many factors, including:
- Trigger conditions that activate the plan
- Chain of command
- Which employees will perform emergency functions
- Clear evacuation procedures
- Identification of routes and exits
- Head counting procedures
- Employee equipment
You should also contact your county planning department to see if your project site is in a flood zone. Monitoring the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio can help you get up-to-date information on flash flooding in your area, too. If a flash flood warning is issued, you must reach higher ground immediately.
Equipping, training, and exercises round out the rest of OSHA’s preparedness guidelines. They note that all employers should have emergency supply kits safely stowed at every project site. You should also familiarize yourself with this information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Training must capably prepare workers for a flood-related emergency. In addition, you should practice executing your evacuation plan regularly to expose weaknesses and update your plan accordingly.
Post-flood, it’s important that you have a plan in place to help your workers safely return to the project site. First and foremost, make sure you workers are careful when driving to and from work in the aftermath of a flood. According to OSHA, “Nearly half of flood fatalities are vehicle-related.” A car can stall in as little as six inches of standing water and be swept away by two feet of moving water. Upon arrival at the project site, some of the most common hazards include electrical hazards, tree and debris removal, carbon monoxide, lifting injuries, mold, animals, chemical and biological hazards, fire, drowning, hypothermia, exhaustion, and heat.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.