Employer Advice on Preparing for Extreme Weather Events

  • Workplace Health & Safety
Michelle Ann Zoleta

Michelle Ann Zoleta, Health & Safety Team Manager

(Last updated )

The devastation caused by the recent floods in Manitoba and the deadly thunderstorm in Ontario and Quebec highlights the importance of being prepared for extreme weather events.

As our planet heats up, extreme weather events, such as floods, wildfiresheat waves, are expected to become more frequent.

It is crucial that employers have an emergency response plan in place to protect their staff and business during such inclement weather emergencies. Having a response procedure for inclement weather conditions will help reduce the impact of the disruptive event and get your business back on track faster.

Under the Occupational Health and Safety laws, it is also the employer’s obligation to take all reasonable steps to provide a safe workplace for their staff. This includes planning for hazards on site that may be created by extreme weather events and other emergencies, such as chemical spills, fires, etc.

What is an emergency response plan?

An emergency response plan identifies the risks and hazards your business might face in the event of an emergency, such as a natural disaster or an accident. It details response procedures to be followed by supervisors and employees to eliminate or reduce the impact of the hazards created by such events.

Employers must prepare and train their staff on how to respond to potential emergencies.

What kind of extreme weather events should businesses prepare for?

The extreme weather events to prepare for may depend on your geographical location. In general, an emergency response plan should factor in disruptive events, such as:

  • Thunderstorms
  • Floods
  • Heat waves
  • Infectious disease outbreaks
  • Earthquakes
  • Landslides
  • Wildfires
  • Tsunamis
  • Tornadoes, hurricanes, cyclones
  • Ice storms
  • Outages
  • Fire
  • Hazardous liquid spills
  • Bomb threats or suspicious packages
  • Active shooter on site

How to prepare an emergency response plan?

Identify emergency situations your business is most likely to face. Your geographical region, your industry, and the nature of your work would determine the natural events and workplace accidents your employees are more likely to be exposed to and must prepare for. Conduct a risk assessment of your workplace to identify the potential risks and hazards that may emerge during such emergencies.

Review any safety procedures you may already have in place for handling emergencies. Are they sufficient? Is there scope for improvement?

Once you have assessed the impact the emergency may have on your business, prepare a response procedure accordingly.

What to include in an emergency response plan?

While preparing an emergency response plan for your business, you should:

Establish a written procedure for evacuation

Consider the scenarios in which evacuation may be required. Assign evacuation routes and emergency exits. Make sure they are hazard-free, well-lit, clearly marked, wide and unobstructed. Designate evacuation wardens from among your employees who will assist others during an evacuation. Practice your evacuation strategy at least once a year and maintain records of the success or shortcomings noticed during these drills.

Designate assembly areas

Assign assembly areas where your staff should gather after they have been safely evacuated. Put the evacuation wardens in charge of conducting a head count to ensure no one is missing. Have a procedure in place in case you need to evacuate employees further and send them home or to another safer location.

Train your staff

Set down individual roles and responsibilities during an emergency response. Your staff should know who would be in charge and what they are required to do. Train employees on the appropriate safety procedures to follow during different emergencies. Share copies of your emergency plan with your employees and place it in an accessible place in your workplace. Make sure your staff has access to emergency response safety checklists, the necessary personal protective equipment, and evacuation maps.

Have emergency supplies in store

Prepare a list of emergency supplies such as food, water, and medical supplies. Ask your employees to keep an emergency kit of basic supplies, and personal items, such as prescription medications, they may need in case they are stranded at work. Make sure your first aid kit and supplies are well stocked as well.

Please note that all jurisdictions in Canada require workplaces to provide first aid equipment and have trained personnel to administer first aid. Check your provincial health and safety legislation for specific requirements you must comply with.

Identify shelter in-place rooms on your premises for emergencies where it may be safer to stay on your worksite, such as hazardous liquid spills. Make sure such spaces have the necessary material (plastic sheet, duct tape) for sealing doors and windows.

Protect important data and paperwork

Make sure you create backups for all your critical data and business information. Use anti-virus software and backup important paperwork off-site on USB sticks or cloud storage. Doing so would help you retrieve any critical information or documents that may be lost during an emergency, such as a flood or fire.

Using a cloud-based human resource management software, like Peninsula’s BrightHR, is another smart option. It’ll help you store all your critical documents and policies in a secure and unlimited storage space. Read our blog to learn more about how BrightHR makes HR management simple and efficient.

Review your response plan regularly

Ensure that you regularly practice and review your emergency response plan. Modify it based on what you learn by testing it. Share it with all your staff, including new employees. It is also important that you consider the safety and needs of employees with disability when drafting the plan. Coordinate your response plan with your provincial emergency management agencies. Sign up or follow their alerts when severe weather events are expected.

Do you need help creating health and safety policies for your workplace?

Our experts can help you create company policies as well as with any other HRhealth and safety and employee management advice you may need. To learn more about how our services can benefit your business, call an expert today at 1 (833) 247-3652

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