The series of tornadoes that ripped through parts of the county in December resulted in widespread death and destruction, including the deaths of six warehouse employees in Illinois.
This should be a potent reminder to employers that: having a disaster plan and preparedness training is vital, says attorney Brittany Buccellato of the Akerman Labor & Employment law practice.
Regardless of industry, the first step is to develop written emergency and disaster preparedness policies and procedures, and communicate them to employees. “Employers should brainstorm possible emergencies that might occur and what should be done in case of each one,” Buccellato suggests.
The policy should identify potential emergency situations, describe the employer’s emergency notification system, an evacuation plan, a post-evacuation protocol (such as a designated area to meet) and shutdown procedures.
Employers should not rely just on having a written policy or plan. To help avoid a disaster striking and employees not knowing what to do, conduct routine training on emergency preparedness, including drills on different kinds of possible emergencies.
Workers also should be notified about who is in charge in case of an emergency, and who are evacuation wardens responsible for moving them out of an affected area into safety. Employees should be told to notify their supervisors if they do not feel safe and should be told that they are not risking their jobs by doing so, Buccellato stresses.
Consider the needs of employees with disabilities when doing emergency planning, she adds. For example, employers should ensure that procedures and signage are in place to safely evacuate all employees, including those with disabilities.
Employees can be asked to voluntarily self-identify whether they have an impairment that would make assistance necessary in the event of an emergency, and they can be asked what type of assistance they would need, she adds.