Category: Weather Safety & Preparedness

Summer Storms – Wet, Wild, and Dangerous

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While icy and snowy conditions are considered the most difficult of driving conditions, summer driving has its own unique hazards that can be just as dangerous. Regardless of whether your driving consists of a daily commute to the office, local deliveries to customers, or extended highway transportation services, everyone needs to be prepared when summer storms occur.
Hazards
Weather conditions can change quickly, and the conditions you can encounter while on the road can suddenly change from a light shower to a thunderstorm, tornado, or evan a hurricane.
THUNDERSTORMS
Thunderstorms can include heavy rain or hail, and driving in these conditions can be tricky, even for the experienced motorist.
Thunderstorms usually include heavy, torrential rains that can reduce visibility to near zero. If it’s raining so hard that you can’t see the road or the car in front of you, pull over and wait it out.
Hail, a frequent by-product of thunderstorms, can be very dangerous and destructive. If you encounter hail while driving in a storm, you should stay inside your vehicle. Hail falls at high speeds, and can hurt you.
If possible, pull to a sheltered place so hail doesn’t break your windows. If the hail is going to hit your vehicle, try to angle it so the hail is hitting the front of your car. Windshields are reinforced; side windows and back glass are not, so they’re much more likely to break. Lie down if possible, and keep your back to the windows. If you have a blanket, cover yourself with it to avoid being hit by broken glass, hail, or debris.
Avoid ditches or other low areas where flooding could occur due to possible high-rising water.
TORNADOES
Tornadoes can strike rapidly and without warning. If you hear that the thunderstorm has the chance of escalating into a tornado, get out of your car immediately and find a safe place to take cover.
Never try to outrun a tornado in your car. An EF-1 tornado can push a moving car off the road and an EF-2 tornado can pick a car up off the ground. Tornadoes can travel over 70 mph and given their unpredictability, you may not be able to escape it.
Don’t hide under an overpass or bridge: the winds can actually be worse there with an added possibility it will collapse or send debris flying through the underpass. If you can get significantly lower than the level of the roadway without being injured by flying debris, leave your car and lie down in that area, covering your head with your hands. If possible, find cover in a building or underground.
HURRICANES
If you’re in a hurricane-prone area, check the local weather forecasts regularly, and be ready to leave even before an official evacuation is ordered. Don’t wait until the last minute to make your way out of town. If you wait, you risk being stuck in traffic as the storm intensifies around you.
If you find yourself on the road when a hurricane hits, stay in your car and try to find shelter. When possible, avoid driving through water that can hide fallen trees or power lines, damage your engine, or even carry your vehicle away.
Driving During a Summer Storm
If you encounter a summer storm, there are some basic driving tips you should know. If you’re trying to drive away from a storm, don’t use the cruise control. Cruise control can cause your vehicle to accelerate if you hydroplane on a wet road.
Check the Weather
The greatest danger to driving in a summer storm is complacency and failing to adjust your driving accordingly. Watch or listen to weather reports before starting a trip. If possible, carry a weather radio. NOAA weather radios receive continuous weather updates and information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and are available for as little as $25.

BE PREPARED FOR TORNADOS

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It’s tornado season, and even though this year’s season is off to a relatively quiet start, it’s important to be prepared for tornados in your area. Tornadoes can be unpredictable and develop quickly, and being prepared can help businesses keep their employees safe.

We have seen in years past when the tornado season has started quietly, but then the jet stream shifts and tornado activity increases dramatically. That’s what happened in May 2013. After a slow start to the season, devastating tornadoes plagued the southern plains for two weeks. Now is the time to create or review your emergency preparedness plan.

Your plan needs to identify where to take shelter, the methods you will use to account for everyone, and the procedures in place to deal with any hazardous materials that may be on-site. Know and monitor your community’s warning system and make it part of your plan. Everyone should know the weather terms used and the actions to take for each such as:

Tornado Watch – Tornados are likely to occur in your area. Be ready to take shelter quickly. Monitor radio and television broadcasts for more information.
Tornado Warning – Imminent threat – A tornado has been reported in the area or has been seen on radar. Take shelter immediately.

  • An interior room or hallway on the lowest level of the building
  • A location away from doors, windows or outside walls
  • A room made of reinforced concrete, brick or block without windows

Avoid large open rooms with flat wide-span roofs.

Accountability Procedures

Businesses should establish procedures to protect employees if a tornado occurs. These should include:

  • A system for knowing who is in the building
  • An alarm system to warn workers, test the system often
  • Communication methods for employees with disabilities or who don’t speak English
  • A prepared roster or checklist to take a head count of all workers when they arrive at the shelter location
  • Assign specific duties to workers. Create checklists for each job. Identify alternates in case the assigned person is not there or is injured

Training and Exercises

Employees need to be trained and practice what to do if tornados occur. Consider holding regular exercises, especially at the beginning of tornado season, to make sure workers are prepared. This includes knowing:

  • Shelter locations
  • Assigned responsibilities
  • Evacuation procedures
  • Assembly points
  • Emergency contacts and procedures

When creating your tornado preparedness procedures consider using the S.T.O.R.M.S. approach:

  • Shelter: Know where to find shelter.
  • Time: Get early warnings. If you wait until you hear sirens, it’s probably too late.
  • Others: Know how to communicate with coworkers and first responders in case of injury or of property damage that requires official assistance.
  • Resources: Make sure you have everything you need, from immediate supplies to good insurance.
  • Medical: Prepare now to save the injured later. Get first-aid training and have first-aid kits available.
  • Sweeping Up: After a tornado, workers may face considerable hazards during clean up. These include additional storms, downed electric lines, and sharp debris.
    o Even if you think the power is out, stay away from downed power lines.
    o Stay alert for the sound or smell of a broken gas line.
    o Dress for the weather, but use clothing that will protect such as sturdy shoes or boots, a hat, and heavy work gloves.
    o Clean-up work can be physically demanding, so it’s important to drink plenty of fluids, eat regularly, and take frequent breaks.

When dealing with tornados, preparedness with a plan can prevent injury and minimize damage.

SNOW REMOVAL

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Every year workers are killed or seriously injured while performing snow or ice removal from the rooftops of commercial, residential, and other building structures. Snow removal operations are often performed under extreme weather conditions by workers who may have little experience or training on the hazards of the job which is why having a safety manual can become very important.

Snow removal may be necessary to prevent overloading and collapse or for construction or repair of decking or roofs. Workers often climb directly onto the roofs or structures and use shovels, snow rakes, or snow blowers to remove ice and snow. Other times these operations are done from aerial lifts used to access roofs and apply de-icing materials, or from ground level using ladders and snow rakes.

Hazards

Falls are the most common cause of worker fatalities and injuries during rooftop snow removal. Workers can fall off roofs, through skylights, or from ladders and aerial lifts.
In addition to falls, workers removing snow, face other significant hazards including:

  • Injuries from using snow blowers and other mechanized equipment
  • Collapses or tip-overs of aerial lifts
  • Becoming engulfed by falling snow
  • Being shocked/electrocuted from contacting power lines or using damaged extension cords
  • Frostbite or hypothermia
  • Musculoskeletal injuries

OSHA requires that employers plan and use the safe work practices to protect workers during snow removal activities. Before snow starts to accumulate, think about what will be needed to remove snow from roofs or other elevated surfaces safely:

  • Can the snow be removed without workers going onto the roof?
  • Are there any hazards on the roof that could become hidden by the snow and will need to be marked so that workers can see them (skylights, roof drains, vents, etc.)?
  • How to remove snow based on the building’s layout to prevent unbalanced loading?
  • Determine the maximum load limit the roof can handle, and compare that to the estimated combined weight of the snow, the removal equipment, and workers on the roof
  • What tools, equipment, PPE, clothing, and footwear will workers need?
  • What training will workers need?
  • How will snow removal equipment be moved to the roof?
  • How will you protect workers and others on the ground from the snow and ice being removed?

Remove Snow Without Going on the Roof

Whenever possible, use methods to clear ice and snow that don’t require workers to go on the roof, such as using ladders to apply de-icing materials or using snow rakes or draglines from the ground.

Use Required Fall Protection

Falls cause most of the deaths and severe injuries that occur during snow removal operations. OSHA requires employers to evaluate and protect workers from fall hazards when working at heights of 4 feet or more above a lower level (1910.23), 6 feet, or more for construction work (1926.501).

If workers must access roofs and other elevated surfaces to clear snow:

  • Train them on fall hazards and the proper use of fall protection equipment,
  • Ensure all workers use their fall protection equipment when removing snow in areas that are not adequately guarded
  • Have workers put on their fall protection equipment before accessing the roof
  • Have a written rescue plan in case a fallen worker becomes caught by a fall protection system
  • Remove or mark rooftop or landscaping features that could present trip or fall hazards

Ground Workers

Workers at ground level removing snow from the roof, and bystanders, can become trapped under snow falling from roofs and suffocate. Snow being removed for a roof can be dangerous. One cubic foot of dry snow weighs about seven pounds, while a cubic foot of wet snow weighs anywhere from 12 to 18 pounds. To protect personnel from removed snow:

  • Identify a safe work zone in the area where snow is being removed to keep the public back 10 feet from where snow is expected to fall
  • Instruct workers to wear eye and head protection when removing snow and ice.
  • Instruct workers using snow rakes and draglines to remove only small amounts of snow at a time.

Effective planning and preparation can protect workers and the public from injuries during snow removal work.

WINTER WALKING

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This winter has been one of the worst for much of the U.S., with near-record snow, ice, and many other weather hazards. Walking in winter weather can be particularly dangerous.
Snow is bad enough, but ice and icy conditions can present a far greater hazard to your health. Snow is easy to see, remove, and does provide some traction. Ice, on the other hand, can be hard to see and dangerous, especially if you’re on foot.
The last thing you want to do is fight the weather, get to work, park your car, and then injure yourself when you get there. Slipping and falling on parking lot and sidewalk ice injuries in are common, and can cause serious injuries. Broken arms, wrists, and hips are far too common in snowy and icy conditions.

Here are some general tips to help companies and employees stay safe when conditions are icy:

  • Employers should clear snow and ice from walking surfaces and spread deicer as quickly as possible after a storm.
  • Employees should wear footwear that has good traction and insulation. Avoid wearing boots or shoes with smooth leather or plastic soles and heels. You should always wear shoes or boots made of non-slip rubber or neoprene with grooved soles when walking on snow and ice.
  • Wear a heavy, bulky coat that will cushion you if you should fall.
  • Wear a bright colored or reflective clothing so drivers can see you.
  • Keep warm, but make sure you can hear what’s going on around you.
  • During the day, wear sunglasses to help you see better and avoid hazards.

Walk like a penguin

In cold temperatures, assume that all wet, dark areas on pavement and sidewalks are slippery and icy. A thin layer of moisture can freeze on cold surfaces, forming a nearly invisible layer of black ice that can look like a wet spot on the pavement.

Walk in designated walkways whenever possible. Taking shortcuts over snow piles and other frozen areas can be dangerous. Avoid walking in the street if at all possible, icy streets are slippery for cars too, and they’re much more difficult to stop.

  • When walking on ice, angle your feet out, like a penguin, this will increase your center of gravity.
  • Lean slightly forward and walk flat-footed to keep your center of gravity directly over your feet.
  • Taking short steps will help you keep your balance
  • Extend your arms out to your sides to maintain balance. If you must carry a load, try not to carry too much; leave your hands and arms free to balance yourself.
  • If you do carry something, carry it in your dominant hand. This can help prevent you from using your dominant hand break your fall, and avoid injuring your hand, wrist, or arm.
  • Keep your hands out of your pockets. Putting your hands in your pockets while walking may keep them warm, but it decreases your center of gravity, balance, and increases your chances of slipping and falling.
  • Watch where you’re walking, focus on the path in front of you, and take your time
  • When walking on stairs always use the hand-railings and plant your feet firmly on each step.
  • It’s easy to lose your balance when getting into or out of your car, use the vehicle to help support yourself.
  • Look at the ground while you’re walking, don’t end up slipping on ice that we could have seen if we had been looking.

Walking on a slippery floor can be just as dangerous as walking on ice. Keep these tips in mind when entering a building:

  • Melting ice or water on the floor can make it slippery.
  • Watch for floors and stairs that may be wet and slippery, walk carefully by outer doors.
  • Determine the best path to take to get to your destination and take a little extra time to get there
  • Be sure to use floor mats when entering a building to remove moisture from the soles of your shoes – this will help protect you, and others, from having to walk on wet or slippery surfaces

Winter weather can be irritating enough without adding injury to the equation.

Heat Stress Preparation

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Heat Stress

As we move through spring and temperatures start to rise in most of North America, it’s time to start thinking about avoiding heat stress. Although some parts of the country believe that the cold weather will never end, I assure you it will, and when it does the heat will be on.

Heat-related illnesses range from a mild heat rash and cramping all the way to heat stroke, which is a life-threatening condition. Now is the time to prepare for the heat that you’ve been hoping for—but will be cursing later on. If you or your employees will be working outdoors or in hot environments, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Have I planned for a modified work schedule to reduce heat exposure?
  • Do I have a sufficient supply of potable water containers and shade covers?
  • Are they in good condition?
  • Do I need circulating or exhaust fans?
  • Do they need maintenance or repair?
  • Would adding a misting system improve the work environment?

Although the costs involved with addressing heat-stress issues can seem like a financial burden, the costs are much greater for the medical treatment for injured workers, potential government fines, and even the cost of replacing an experienced productive worker who leaves the company to take a job with better working conditions.
Employees will have a much-improved attitude if they feel that management cares about their health and safety, and is working to make them feel more comfortable and protected. These things can be as valuable as a pay raise to an employee.

Another factor to consider is productivity. Are employees as efficient when their glasses are fogging up or sweat is dripping off their noses? Certainly not. Fewer water and rest breaks might be required if the workplace was 10-12 degrees cooler, which improves productivity. How many errors are made due to heat stress, and how many shortcuts are taken that can lead to unnecessary rework, customer complaints, or worse yet, accident or injury? The numbers could be more significant than you think.
The impact of heat stress varies from worker to worker depending on the level of exertion, physical factors, and climate conditions. A wide variety of PPE and environmental controls are available, and it’s up to management to determine the best way to reduce the chances of heat-stress-related incidents, and to provide a cooler atmosphere. The workers will certainly appreciate it too.

Additional Heat Stress resources:

  • Heat Stress 101 (Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3)
  • Avoiding Heat Stress

Tornado Safety & Preparedness

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Tornado Building Damage

 

With the recent and tragic tornadoes whirling their way across Oklahoma, business all over the country are wondering the best way to keep their employees safe if a tornado were to happen in their area. Tornadoes are most common in the spring and summer, with peak months being April through July.
Here are a few tips for your business to keep safe

Important Notice: The following post was written by one of our community members.  The authors views are entirely his/her own and may not reflect the views of Safety Services Company.

Before the Tornado:

1. Develop an emergency plan:

The most beneficial thing you can do for your business is to have a plan. In the plan, include where the employees should meet and the safest (most insulated) place in the building. Make sure this place is free from windows, outside walls, and try to stay away from doors. It’s best to avoid the corners of the room also, because debris and other items are easily trapped here. To learn more about safe rooms, read the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s guide to building a safe room.

For those personnel that work outside, devise a plan that attempts to seek shelter in the nearest building. If none can be found, try to get into a car and drive to the nearest shelter. Make sure to buckle your seat belt! If there is no shelter nearby, drive at right angles to the tornado, never straight away from it – a tornado can reach speeds much faster than your vehicle. If you are stuck out in the open without a shelter or vehicle, try to get away from any large objects such as cars or trees and lie face-down on the ground with your hands over the back of your head.

2. Set Up Communication Equipment:

Communication equipment can consist of a PA (public address) system or even walkie-talkies laid throughout the building. It’s best to know where everyone is. It is also a great idea to set up some form of checklist that allows someone in charge to take account for everyone in the building and check them in when they reach the safe spot. It is also a good idea to have an emergency kit somewhere in your office.

During the Tornado:

1. Get to the safe room:

Make your way to the designated safe room, and remain there until further direction is given. The closer to the ground you are, the safer you will be. Sit on your knees with your hands over your head, and if a helmet is available, wear it. Line your shelter or lie beneath padding such as a mattress or blankets if they are available. Be aware where heavy objects are located on the floor above and avoid the area immediately below them – you don’t want to be directly under a refrigerator or bathtub if the floor above gives way!

2. When to leave:

Do not leave the building for any reason while the tornado is outside. This is not the way to escape the tornado. The only safe time to leave the building is when you are 100% positive the storm has passed. Remember, multiple tornadoes can touch down at a time.

After the Tornado:

1. Avoid hazards:

After a tornado has struck, there are many hazards on the ground, and even in the air. A fallen power line, an overturned car, or debris can all pose large threats to your safety. Watch the ground where you are walking to avoid glass, nails, and puddles with wires in them, which may be electrically-charged. If your shelter is heavily damaged and you are sure the tornado has passed, it is best to make your way outside, as it could collapse and trap you beneath it.

2. Turn off unnecessary resources:

Some resources, such as gas, electric and propane can still pose a threat after the storm. While buildings and trees are still falling, these resources can easily cause a fire or explosion. Turn them off if they are still on, and avoid striking a match or smoking where there could be a potential gas leak.

The tornado season is here in full force, so follow these steps and stay safe.

Aaron Walker is a writer with strong interests in both writing and survivalism. He has written about everything from tornado safety, to groundhog traps, to social media.

Workplace Tornado Planning

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At least 24 people — including nine children — were killed when a massive tornado struck an area outside Oklahoma City on Monday afternoon.

Unfortunately the tornado that stuck Oklahoma City was not an isolated incident. Every year more than 800 tornadoes are reported across the nation, with wind speeds of up to 250 mph.

This article is designed to provide you with some basic information to help recognize the signs of a tornado and develop a tornado response plan

Recognize the signs

Tornadoes can appear and disappear rapidly, so it is important to be familiar with the signs in order to stay prepared.

These signs include monitoring the local weather stations to alert you to possible tornado conditions, being aware of tornado alarms used in areas you are working and recognizing the environmental signs of a tornado.

Environmental signs of a tornado include:

  • Dark, often greenish clouds or sky
  • Wall cloud
  • Large hail
  • Funnel cloud
  • Roaring noise

Planning

The best way to ensure you are ready for a tornado is to have an emergency action plan. When dealing with a tornado this plan should identify a place to take shelter, how community tornado warning systems will be monitored and how to account for all people during a tornado.

Identify Shelter

During a tornado the best shelter is an underground area, such as a basement or a cellar. However, if this type of structure is not available consider:

  • A small interior room or hallway on the lowest floor possible
  • A room constructed with reinforced concrete
  • A room or area with a reinforced ceiling

When selecting a shelter ensure it has no windows if possible, avoid structures with flat, wide-span roofs and try to stay in the center of the room. Ensure the shelter location is stocked with adequate emergency supplies.

If caught outdoors away from a designated shelter try to get to a suitable shelter as quickly as possible. If this is not possible here are two options:

  • Stay in the vehicle with the seat belt on, keeping your head below the windows and covering it with your hands or a blanket.
  • Get to an area noticeable lower than the roadway, lie in that area and cover your head with your hands.

Accountability

The following steps are recommended to help ensure the safety of personnel if a tornado occurs:

  • Develop a system for knowing who is in the building in the event of an emergency
  • Establish an alarm system to warn workers and test the system frequently. If you have workers who do not speak English ensure this information is communicated clearly to them.
  • Account for workers, visitors, and customers as they arrive in the shelter. One way to do this is to develop a check sheet from a prepared roster or schedule.
  • Assign specific duties to workers in advance; create checklists for each specific responsibility. Designate and train employee alternates in case the assigned person is not there or is injured.

This plan should be reviewed with employees on an annual basis and updated whenever a change occurs within your company.