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What hurricane preparedness means for workers

On both coasts of the United States, workers are vulnerable to the effects of hurricanes. This weather phenomenon can result in heavy winds, torrential rain, and a great deal of danger. Workers can become stranded on the road when these storms hit, and some may even be called to the scene and required to work through them.

Law enforcement, utility company employees, emergency health workers, fire fighters, sanitation workers, and highway employees can all easily find themselves outside during a hurricane. Teach personnel the following safety tips to ensure that they remain out of harm's way while on the job.

Hazards
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the biggest hazards during high winds and heavy rain include:

• Car accidents on wet and debris-strewn roads
• Slipping and falling while walking
• Being struck by falling limbs or telephone poles
• Electrocution from downed power lines
• Falling from unsafe heights due to high winds
• Burns due to fire and electricity

Storm Strength
The National Weather Service rates hurricanes using the Saffir-Simpson Scale. By this type of measurement, a Category One storm features winds 74 to 95 miles per hour and surf that surges to 4 or 5 feet above the normal level. Category Two sees winds 96 to 110 MPH and 6 to 8-foot storm surges. A Category Three hurricane falls into the range of 111 to 130 MPH and 9 to 12-foot surges. Category Four features 131 to 155 MPH winds and 13 to18-foot surf. Winds of 155 MPH or more and larger surf surges than 18 feet are characteristic of Category Five storms.

Employers should monitor alerts from the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Institute and the National Weather Service to determine whether evacuation is mandatory. If it isn't, it is up to managers and supervisors to consider the safety of continuing work during a hurricane.

Equipment
When power lines fall down or infrastructure is damaged by falling structures or uprooted foundations, only those workers who have been trained in their repair should attempt to fix them.

When going outside during a storm, personnel need the best safety equipment and safety supplies possible. Provide workers with non-conductive hardhats, work gloves, safety glasses, and other personal protective equipment. Power line repair and tree trimming demands the use of fall protection.

Power tools and mechanical devices that are used in a hurricane need to be approved for use in outdoor and wet conditions. Electric shock and malfunction can result from improperly used devices.

Driving
From time to time, employees may find themselves stranded on the road when a hurricane strikes.

In the case of a hurricane, instruct workers to find high ground to park their vehicles - the closer to a sturdy structure, the better. They should then find a building to seek shelter in. The best shelter is found in a basement away from windows.

Standing water can accumulate during rainstorms that precede tornadoes or during hurricanes. Never drive through standing water, because it can conduct electricity. At the very least, it can cause a car's battery to die before an employee has the chance to get to safety.

Creating a plan
Make a detailed plan for hurricane preparedness and share it with your workers. Hurricane season comes to the Atlantic Coast at the end of summer and into the middle of fall, so that time of year is best for reinforcing safety protocols for surviving strong winds, flooding, and power outages.

Drill frequently and highlight the best places to seek shelter at a workplace to ensure that workers can access them quickly.

Purchase plenty of safety equipment and instruct employees on its use. With attention to detail and the right supplies, companies can successfully survive any weather and keep themselves safe while doing so.