American Society of Safety Engineers Offer Business Resumption Safety Tips to Those Affected by the Deadly Winter Storms

Feb 07, 2008, 00:00 ET from American Society of Safety Engineers

    DES PLAINES, Ill., Feb. 7 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- To help businesses
 and communities resume operations safely after the recent deadly storms,
 the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) offers the following
 business resumption safety tips.
     "We are saddened by the loss of life and injuries incurred by these
 deadly storms that destroyed homes, businesses and neighborhoods," ASSE
 President Michael W. Thompson, CSP, said today. "In light of this and in an
 effort to prevent further injuries, we are offering these tips from our
 safety, health and environmental professional members."
     There is no one-size-fits-all solution for business resumption
 following a disaster, however, businesses should do a hazard evaluation and
 assessment performed by an occupational safety and health professional,
 which would include the following and consider these tips:
     EMPLOYEE COMMUNICATIONS - First, find out if your employees are safe.
 Were any injured during the storms? If so, find a way to assist them and
 communicate this with your employees - follow your company emergency action
 plan. Once you have learned the facts involving any damage your business
 may have sustained, evaluate the next steps and communicate this with your
 employees, emergency personnel (city, state and federal), the community you
 do business in, your customers, vendors and other organizations you work
     STRUCTURAL SECURITY: Have the structural integrity of the building or
 facility validated by qualified professionals before anyone enters the
     SAFE ENTRY: Contact the proper government agencies to get approval to
 resume occupancy of the building. Do not enter a facility or building
 unless the proper clearances have been attained.
     CLEAN-UP SAFETY: Implement your clean-up and business resumption
 processes in a safe and healthful manner. Provide training in proper
 selection and use of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) for your employees
 and yourself such as eyewear, gloves, and dust mask/respirators for
     AIR QUALITY ASSESSMENT: Make sure the atmosphere in the workplace
 environment is tested for asbestos and other chemical/toxic agents. Air
 quality is a key concern when restarting business operations.
     VENTILATION: Have vents checked to assure that water heaters and gas
 furnaces are clear and operable. Dust and debris can stop or impede airflow
 decreasing its quality and healthfulness. Safely start-up heating,
 ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, which includes prior
 inspection of lines before energizing and pressurizing of the systems. Test
 your systems now after inspection or have a qualified specialist do so.
 Blow cold air through HVAC systems first, as opposed to warm air, as it can
 help prevent the growth of mold in duct systems.
     INTERIOR, EXTERIOR EXPOSURES: For interior spaces, ensure no wall or
 ceiling materials are in danger of falling. If such exposures do exist, the
 work environment is not ready for occupancy. Check for cracked windows and
 outside building materials, as these could fall onto pedestrians at any
 time -- now and in the future.
     PROTECTION EQUIPMENT: For fire and smoke alarms it is important to
 assure that these have been cleaned and tested before allowing occupancy of
 the building. If such systems are wired into other systems ensure that they
 are still compatible and work in an efficient and effective manner.
 Thorough inspection of fire-fighting systems such as sprinkler and chemical
 equipment functions is a must.
     ELECTRICAL SAFETY: Have checks made of electrical systems, computer
 cables and telecommunications' equipment to ensure that they are still safe
 and there is no danger of exposure to electricity. Wiring inspections
 should be conducted from the outside in to ensure all wiring and
 connections are not in danger of shorting out due to water damage from rain
 or fire-fighting efforts.
     USE EXISTING FEDERAL GUIDELINES: Utilize existing start-up guidance
 materials provided by government agencies such as the Federal Emergency
 Management Agency (FEMA), and the National Institute
 for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH),
     HEALTH/SANITATION ISSUES: The general facility sanitation systems with
 the facility should be inspected and tested to guard against potential
 employee exposure to toxic agents. Food sanitation should also be an issue.
 Any unused food should be discarded. If the workspace has a kitchen,
 inspect oven hoods and other ventilation devices to ensure they are not
 clogged and are working efficiently.
     OFFICE FURNITURE: Inspect the furniture to ensure it can withstand
 expected loads and usages. Ensure that binder bins (storage devices screwed
 or bolted to railing systems on walls and panels) have not become unstable
 due to water damage or shaking due to explosions. Inspect office equipment
 to ensure it is level, stable, and cannot tip over.
     LIGHTING: Make sure there are adequate illumination levels for
 employees. Emergency lighting should be checked to ensure it operates and
 functions in the correct manner.
     EMERGENCY PLANNING: Ensure that there is a clear path of egress for the
 emergency evacuation of employees, that the fire extinguishers are still
 operable and that checks for damage and serviceability are made to see if
 any fire extinguishers were used during the disaster. If damage is found,
 they should be replaced immediately.
     SOLID/HAZARDOUS WASTE REMOVAL: Broken glass, debris, or other materials
 with cutting edges should be safely gathered and disposed of immediately.
 Ensure that such materials can be disposed of before collection to avoid
 creating even bigger hazards for both employees and the public. Solid waste
 disposal will be an issue, especially if hazardous waste is involved.
 Evaluate waste disposal issues prior to beginning clean-up operations to
 ensure it can be properly disposed of.
     POWER CHECKS: If there is no access to electricity on the site, do not
 use fueled generators or heaters indoors. Ensure that there are no gas and
 sewer leaks in your facility. You will need to check with your local
 utilities for information regarding power, gas, water, and sewer usage.
     CHECK MAINFRAMES: If your facility has mainframe computer applications
 - see that lines and cabling for chiller systems are checked to avoid
 chemical leak out.
     EMERGENCY PROCEDURES: Create a new emergency action plan and distribute
 it to employees as they return to work. In case of emergency, designate a
 place for employees to gather once out of the building or a phone number
 they should call following the emergency so that all can be accounted for.
 Frequently update the emergency contact list of names and phone numbers.
     MACHINE INSPECTIONS: Inspect the condition of the drain, fill,
 plumbing, and hydraulic lines on processes and machines. It would be
 prudent to have plumbing lines evaluated and tested in order to detect any
 hazardous gases.
     SURFACES: Make sure flooring surfaces are acceptable and free from
 possible slips, trips and falls - the second leading cause of on-the-job
 deaths in the U.S. ANSI standard A1264 - protection of floor and wall
 openings is a good starting point.
     TRANSPORTATION: If employees will be on the road, check on the
 condition of the roads, make sure they are safe. For example, downed power
 lines could be a major hazard. Transportation accidents continue to be the
 number one cause of on-the-job fatalities in the U.S. In 2005, 6,159,000
 vehicle crashes killed 43,443 people while injuring 2.7 million. Although
 the roadway is not a closed environment and roadway conditions cannot be
 controlled, employers can take steps to protect their employees by
 assigning a management team member, such as the occupational safety and
 health professional, to set and enforce a comprehensive company driver
 safety policy; enforce mandatory seat belt use; not require workers to
 drive irregular hours or far beyond their normal work hours or to conduct
 business on a cell phone while driving; and, developing work schedules that
 allow employees to follow hours-of-service regulations. Also, adopt a
 structured vehicle maintenance program and provide vehicles with the
 highest levels of occupant protection.
     More information on contingency preparedness can be found at Founded in 1911, the Des Plaines, IL-based ASSE is the oldest
 and largest safety society and is committed to protecting people, property
 and the environment. Its more than 31,000 members manage, supervise and
 consult on safety health and environmental issues in all industries,
 government, labor and education.

SOURCE American Society of Safety Engineers