As hurricane season peaks in September, OSHA urges employers to be prepared to keep their workers safe during extreme weather. The agency’s Emergency Preparedness and Response list provides information on protecting workers before hurricanes.
It is important to have an evacuation plan in place to ensure that workers can get to safety in case a hurricane may affect the area. A thorough evacuation plan should include:
– Conditions that will activate the plan
– Chain of command
– Emergency functions and who will perform them
– Specific evacuation procedures, including routes and exits
– Procedures for accounting for personnel, customers and visitors
– Equipment for personnel
Some businesses are required to have an Emergency Action Plan meeting the requirements under 29 CFR 1910.38, see Evacuation Plans and Procedures eTool for more information. Ready.gov – Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has more information on evacuation plans as well as suggestions for precautions to take if you are unable to evacuate and do not have a safe room.
In addition to having evacuation plans in place, it is important to be familiar with the warning terms used for hurricanes, as well as your local community’s emergency plans, warning signals, and shelters. Hurricane/Tropical Storm watches mean that a hurricane or tropical storm is possible in the specified area. Hurricane/Tropical Storm warnings mean that a hurricane or tropical storm is expected to reach the area, typically within 24 hours.
Be prepared to follow instructions from the local authorities and to evacuate if instructed to do so.
Employers whose workers will be involved in emergency response operations for releases of, or substantial threats of releases of, hazardous substances regardless of the location of the hazard must comply with OSHA’s Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) standard, 29 CFR 1910.120. This may include emergency response following an earthquake. Instruction CPL 02-02-073 describes OSHA enforcement procedures under the relevant provisions of the HAZWOPER standard.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has promulgated a standard applying OSHA’s HAZWOPER standard to state and local government workers in states where there is no OSHA-approved State Plan. See 40 CFR Part 311.
OSHA’s HAZWOPER Safety and Health Topics page explains requirements of the OSHA HAZWOPER standard, including required worker training.
Get emergency supply kits and keep them in shelter locations
– Hurricane Preparedness – Family, Health, and Safety Preparation – Supplies. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
– Ensure that all workers know what to do in case of an emergency.
– Practice evacuation plans on a regular basis.
– Update plans and procedures based on lessons learned from exercises.
OSHA’s Disaster Site Worker Outreach Training Program is a training program for workers who provide skilled support services (e.g., utility, demolition, debris removal, or heavy equipment operation) or site clean-up services. The program highlights the differences between disaster sites and construction sites, and emphasizes the need for workers and employers to have pre-incident training.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
National Hurricane Center (National Weather Service)
Hurricane Preparedness – Make a Plan (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)