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Is Your Workplace Prepared for an Emergency or Disaster?

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National Preparedness Month— sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security each September since 2003 — encourages Americans to take steps to prepare for emergencies in their communities – whether they occur at home, at school, or at work.

Though much of the focus for National Preparedness Month is on being ready to deal with emergent situations at home, the observance also raises the issue of being prepared for emergencies on the job. Safety at work is a year round priority, so it’s important to regularly review your company’s safety plans and policies and keep them up to date.

FEMA lists the steps in developing a preparedness program at work as:
-Program Management
-Planning
-Implementation
-Testing and Exercises
-Program Improvement

The business preparedness section of the Ready.gov website (www.ready.gov) from the DHS and FEMA recommends that the planning process take an “all hazards” approach. As the term suggests, that means taking into account different types of threats and hazards and their likelihood of happening.

As part of the planning process, the website recommends developing strategies for prevention/deterrence and risk mitigation. This should include threats or hazards that can be classified as probable as well as hazards that could cause injury, property damage, business disruption or environmental impact.

Developing an all hazards preparedness plan includes identifying potential hazards, assessing vulnerabilities and considering potential impacts. A risk assessment identifies threats or hazards and opportunities for hazard prevention, deterrence, and risk mitigation. Of course, human injuries should be highest priority consideration in a risk assessment, but other assets could include everything from buildings and equipment to raw materials and finished products.

In conducting a risk assessment, the Ready.gov site recommends looking for vulnerabilities, or weaknesses, that would make an asset more susceptible to (and possibly contribute to the severity of) damage from a hazard. Such vulnerabilities could range from deficiencies in a building’s structural integrity to its security or protection system – having a working sprinkler system in place to limit damage in the event of a fire, for example.

More information on putting together emergency plans for the workplace is available at http://www.ready.gov/business.

Mr. Griffith has a received his bachelors degree in Environmental Health from Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. He is a Certified Industrial Hygienist and president of Workplace Safety & Health Company. He has over 35 years of industrial hygiene, safety, loss control and consulting experience. Chemical monitoring, noise measurement, program development and management, risk assessment and computer management of health and safety data are areas of particular strength. Mr. Griffith is a member of the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) at the local and national level. He is also active in the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).

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