Tis the Season… For Tornadoes. Are you prepared?
Spring is Tornado Season for most of the Unites States. There are nearly 1,200 tornadoes throughout the United States annually with an average of 70 fatalities according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
What can employers due to prepare for severe weather?
- Be Weather Aware. Through use of local weather reports from local TV stations, NOAA weather radio, or weather and emergency apps such as the FEMA app, employers and employees can be aware of any dangerous weather conditions.
- Plan Ahead. Ensure that workers are aware of tornado safety and how to handle a weather emergency when they are working outdoors. For those working on-site, ensure they are aware of where to shelter during a tornado and where to assemble after the tornado passes.
- Keep Everyone Informed. This can be done by announcement through loud speakers or intercoms at facilities. For employees who are working at a separate location, text messages, and emails could be used to communicate the potential for severe weather. Establish more than one method for communicating weather danger so you are prepared if the primary method fails.
- Conduct Drills Regularly. Practice drills on-site and at off-site locations to ensure everyone will know what to do when an emergency arises.
A well-developed Emergency Action Plan (EAP) along with employee training will result in fewer and less severe injuries. However, a poor plan will likely lead to a disorganized evacuation which will likely result in more injuries. Employees being adequately trained according the EAP for severe weather is a key component to being prepared. An Emergency Action Plan is required by OSHA standards [29 CFR 1910.38(a)].
What to look for when there is a tornado risk?
- Wall Clouds (also known as pedestal clouds)
- A persistent roaring sound
- Persistent and strong rotation in the cloud base
- Heavy rain and/or hail followed by an intense shift in wind
- Whirling dust or debris near the ground
What do you do if there is a tornado?
- In general, workers at the facility should find an enclosed, windowless room ideally in the center of the building on the lowest floor. Often, restrooms and closets fit these criteria.
- If a person is traveling or working outdoors, monitor the weather in advance. Postponing travel till the danger has passed is ideal. If a worker is already in route and a tornado is nearby, workers should move to a sturdy building quickly if available. If there is not one available, workers should leave the vehicle and lie down in an area that has a lower elevation than the road and cover their head. Do not try to outrun the tornado.
- Do not use bridges or overpasses for shelter. They can become a wind tunnel for debris.
The EAP can outline these principles for employees based on their location during severe weather. The EAP can also establish guidelines for when there is an expectation of dangerous weather conditions.
What do you do after the storm?
- Be Cautious. Watch out for the hazards. Do not handle debris without the proper personal protective equipment.
- Locate workers and assess for injuries. Do not move anyone who is seriously injured unless they are in immediate danger. Seek medical assistance immediately.
- Remain Alert. Be aware of the potential for additional weather concerns. Simply because one tornado has passed does not mean the danger has passed.
- As always, cooperate with Emergency personnel.
The Emergency Action Plan should include methods and plans for employers to communicate with employees after the tornado. Employees should be trained on the company’s EAP and reminded prior to “tornado season.” Practice drills so everyone knows their roles and what to do in an emergency. This will help mitigate the risk of injuries and damage to property when everyone knows how to prepare, how to be aware and what to do when there is a tornado.