September is National Flood Month— Is Your Company Prepared?

Julie Shenkman
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Your HR department is responsible for the safety of every employee in your company, even if you have thousands of workers. Most HR professionals know how to reduce the risk of workplace violence or help employees avoid repetitive stress injuries, but the threat of workplace flooding does not get enough attention. Follow these tips to ensure the safety of all employees if flooding occurs in your area.

Workplace flooding often occurs without much notice, so the best thing you can do is prepare for the worst ahead of time. Put someone in your department in charge of purchasing first-aid kits or stocking existing kits with fresh supplies. Make sure you have bottled water, flashlights and blankets. If your company does not have flood insurance, have your legal department purchase coverage right away. Once it starts raining heavily, move important items to a safe place. If your building has several floors, put computers, audiovisual equipment and important documents on the highest floor.

It is important to develop an emergency plan in case workplace flooding occurs. The plan should outline what employees are to do in the event of a flood or other natural disaster. It should also include maps of the building, with several evacuation routes highlighted. Once a workplace flooding plan is in place, do not assume everyone knows what to do. Have flood drills at least once per year to give employees a chance to practice evacuating the building without having to worry about flood conditions. Ask someone from your employee safety team to conduct drills regularly.

If workplace flooding occurs, tell employees to get to higher ground immediately. It's especially important for employees who work in basements and on the ground floors of commercial buildings to have a place to go in the event of flooding. Transportation options may be limited during a flood, so be prepared to help your employees find shelter. If you have to evacuate your building, tell employees to be careful when walking through flooded areas. No one should attempt to walk through more than 6 inches of water.

Don't allow employees back into a flooded building until you make sure it is safe. Heavy workplace flooding can cause structural damage, rendering a building unsafe. Have a professional check the gas and power lines before you enter the building. There is a risk of fires, gas explosions and other disasters. Once you get inside the building, remove wet furniture and rugs. Eliminating moisture right away is the best way to prevent the growth of mold and mildew. Allow the building to dry out completely before employees resume work.

Employee safety is a major concern for employers. Although you cannot control the weather, you can plan ahead for workplace flooding and other natural disasters. Keep employees safe by developing a comprehensive emergency plan, conducting regular evacuation drills and teaching everyone how to be safe in the event of a flood.


Photo courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

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