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Oregon OSHA - 350 Winter Street NE Room 430 - Salem, Oregon 97301-3882
For Immediate Release
January 9, 2007
Contact for more Information:
Kevin Weeks, Public Information Officer, 503-947-7428

Keep workers safe in winter weather

A number of hazards exist year-round, but 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 better equipped to survive a natural disaster and continue operations.

Oregon OSHA requires employers to provide a safe and healthful workplace for their employees. Those requirements include 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 them in an emergency.

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

  • Communicate before, during, and after an emergency. Include emergency preparedness information in newsletters, bulletin boards, all-staff e-mails, 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 e-mail accounts, or an answer-only voice-mail 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 so they do not impact the structural safety of the building.
  • Identify co-workers in your organization with special needs. Train people willing to help 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.
  • Closely tie a business continuity plan to your emergency plan. The business continuity plan should address how your business can remain functioning.
  • 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 backup.
  • 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.

Oregon OSHA has developed a free 24-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 emergencies such as threats of violence.

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.

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Oregon OSHA, a division of the Department of Consumer & Business Services, enforces the state’s workplace safety and health rules and works to improve workplace safety and health for all Oregon workers. For more information, go to www.orosha.org.

The Department of Consumer and Business Services is Oregon’s largest business regulatory and consumer protection agency. For more information, visit www.dcbs.oregon.gov.