Emergency Prescription

A NEW YORK CITY SANITATION worker recently became a victim of violence. While picking up trash in March, two workers were caught in a hail of gunfire that resulted in one being shot. Fortunately, the worker is recovering. Yet the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Washington, estimates that 2 million Americans each year are victims of workplace violence that can range from verbal threats to homicide.

Workplace emergencies can take many forms: physical perils, such as fires and floods; work accidents; or deliberate acts of violence. Such events are best handled when companies have prepared for the unforseen. Incidents of school violence have prompted school officials nationwide not only to increase security, but also to prepare students for a variety of situations, beyond the standard fire drill. Companies, too, can take active steps to prepare workers for potential emergencies.

The first step is to create a company emergency action plan. Then, employees can enhance their preparedness with some simple tips.

Before the Emergency

Employees should:

Be knowledgable about preplanned evacuation routes, including an alternate evacuation route from their work areas.

  • When in other work areas, check evacuation maps so they can be prepared to escape during an emergency.

  • Keep a flashlight at their workstation. Even a small pen light could be enough to help find exits and avoid tripping hazards in the dark.

  • Keep emergency numbers on an index card in the work area and a copy in their wallet or purse.

  • Know the location of first aid kits, eye wash stations, fire extinguishers and fire alarm boxes.

  • Ensure co-workers know where they are at all times. During an emergency, employees must be accounted for. If employees leaves their work area, they should let someone know where they are going so the person can find them if an emergency occurs.

  • Back up computer files often. While life safety is foremost, preventing lost data is critical.

During the Emergency

There also are things employees shouldn't do during an emergency, such as:

  • Don't panic. While the emergency may be life-threatening, nothing ensures survival more than a clear mind and sound pre-planning. Workers should try to remain calm and remember the training their employer provided for handling emergencies.

  • Don't take risks they are not trained for. During an emergency, employees often are injured trying to assist others. If they do not have the equipment or training to rescue or provide medical care to others, their best action is to summon help.

  • Never re-enter a dangerous area to get equipment or personal items. Nothing is worth risking their lives.

  • Don't leave the property. When employees leave during an emergency without being accounted for, rescue personnel may be sent to find them, which places the rescuers in danger.

After an emergency, employees also can be a valuable resource for a company to prepare for future emergencies. Employers should not hesitate to call in more help to counsel affected employees. Emergencies place stress on employees, so it is natural to feel nervous or scared about what happened. Employers can play an active role in supporting employees through the recovery time.

Remember, emergencies actually can happen more than once. Learning from past situations can minimize future risks and better prepare a waste firm for potential emergencies.

Kate McGinn
XL Specialty Insurance Co.

Exton, Pa.