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Oregon OSHA - 350 Winter Street NE Room 430 - Salem, Oregon 97301-3882
For Immediate Release
January 3, 2006
Contact for more Information:
Kevin Weeks, Public Information Officer, 503-947-7428

Plan ahead to stay in business this winter

Oregon OSHA requires employers to provide a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. Those requirements including having emergency plans in place to address fires, disasters and weather emergencies that could occur during work.

Emergency planning may not prevent emergencies, but it can protect lives, equipment, and property over the long term. Oregon OSHA requires most employers to have emergency plans. Companies that have more than 10 employees must have written plans. Businesses with 10 or fewer employees don't have to put their plans in writing; however, they must ensure that their employees know what procedures to follow to protect themselves in an emergency.

A number of hazards exist year-round, however winter in Oregon brings a higher risk of weather-related emergencies, including winter ice storms, power outages and a higher likelihood of lowland floods. Employers that plan ahead to keep workers safe in an emergency are also employers that are better equipped to survive a natural disaster and continue operations.

Employers should focus on three objectives when planning for emergencies:

  • Protecting the safety of your workers.
  • Planning for business continuity during a crisis.
  • Finding resources to help you plan ahead.

Step One: Protect Your Workers

Follow these tips to make sure your employees can stay safe during emergencies, including workplace incidents and winter weather events:

  • Communication is vital before, during and after an emergency. Include emergency preparedness information in newsletters, bulletin boards, all-staff emails and other internal communication tools.
  • Consider setting up a telephone-calling tree, a password-protected page on the company Web site, an alert message sent to home email accounts or an answer-only voicemail recording to provide information to employees in an emergency.
  • Provide workers with wallet cards detailing instructions, including phone numbers and Web sites, for getting company information during an emergency. Information about closures and delays can protect workers from being exposed to unnecessary traffic hazards.
  • Establish a process for safely evacuating your facility, if appropriate, and coordinate a safe area where workers can be accounted for.
  • Once snow has fallen or ice has formed, make sure that parking lots and walkways are cleared of those hazards. Make sure heavy snow accumulations are removed from roofs to not impact structural safety of the building.
  • Identify co-workers in your organization with special needs. Train people willing to help those workers with special needs get to safety and be sure they are physically suited to their responsibility. This is particularly important if a worker needs to be lifted or carried.
  • Plan how you will alert people who cannot hear an alarm or instructions during an emergency.

Step Two: Protect Your Business Plan

  • Carefully assess your company's external and internal functions to determine staff, materials, procedures and equipment that are absolutely necessary to keep the business operating.
  • Identify operations critical to survival and recovery. Ensure that time is built in to your plan to assess the safety of production equipment or working conditions following an incident.
  • Include planning for emergency payroll continuity, expedited purchasing procedures and accounting systems to track and document costs in the event of a disaster.
  • Establish procedures for succession of management. Include at least one person who is not at the company headquarters, if possible.
  • Create a contact list for existing business contractors, vendors and other key members of your supply chain to contact in an emergency. Keep this list with other important documents in your emergency supply kit and at a secure off-site location.
  • Consider if you can run the business from a different location (or from your home) if your building, plant or store is not accessible. If appropriate, develop relationships with other companies to use their facilities in case an incident makes your location unusable. Ensure that your back-up location can provide a safe work environment for your employees.
  • Include a broad cross-section of people from throughout your organization for your emergency team. Include workers from all levels in planning and as active members, but focus on those with expertise vital to daily business functions. This team will likely include skilled technical specialists as well as company leaders.
  • Define incident-management procedures and individual responsibilities in advance. Make sure those involved know what they are supposed to do, and train others who can serve as a back up.
  • Talk with first responders, local emergency managers and utility providers about your plan.
  • Review your emergency plans annually. When you hire new employees or when there are changes in how your company functions, update your plan and inform your people.

Step Three: Get help with your emergency plan

Contact Oregon OSHA for resources and information to help you develop your company's emergency action plan.

Oregon OSHA has developed a free 28-page guide to emergency planning in the workplace called "Expecting the Unexpected". The guide introduces employers to incident-management systems for the workplace, and explains factors to consider when planning for an emergency. The guide also addresses how to plan for modern emergencies such as threats of violence and terrorism.

The guide is available in print, as a free download in the Publications section of the Oregon OSHA Web site, www.orosha.org, or on CD-ROM. For copies of the printed brochure or CD-ROM, contact the Oregon OSHA Resource Center at 800-922-2689.