Preparing for an Emergency Evacuation in Six Steps

Ask yourself and your employees these questions:

  • How do you escape the building/worksite in the event of an emergency?
  • Where is the nearest exit route?
  • If the nearest exit route is blocked, what is your next option?

 

Under times of pressure, you and even your employees may likely become flustered and unable to think back to a safety training delivered months ago, or the few pages in the employee handbook.

Emergencies that require evacuation are typically unexpected. From fires and flooding to needing to take shelter or lockdown the facility, an emergency response plan and preparedness kit can make the difference between saving your business or potentially disastrous results. (Check out this emergency response plan resource from FEMA.) Taking the following steps can help ensure that your business and your employees remain safe in these emergent situations.

A workplace emergency could include any of the following:

  • Hurricane
  • Tornado
  • Toxic Gas Leak
  • Chemical Spill
  • Explosion
  • Workplace Violence
  • Fire

 

Step One: Create a Formal Emergency Evacuation Plan
This formal plan should be incorporated in the company handbook, and available separately for easy access. The plan should include contact phone numbers, designated safe meeting spots, and maps of various evacuation routes. An additional copy of this plan should be kept in a safe, off-site location, also.

Step Two: Create an Emergency Kit
An emergency kit is helpful in many situations. The kit should include a three-day supply of non-perishable food, flashlights and extra batteries, bottled water, a first aid kit, moist towlettes, dust mask, whistle to signal for help, and a battery-powered radio.

Step Three: Warning, Notifications, and Communications
To notify employees, including disabled workers, of an emergency, it is important to create an emergency notification plan. If using alarms to notify employees, they must be distinctive and able to be recognized by all employees as a signal to evacuate their workstation. Alarms should also be equipped with a light so the alarm can both be seen and heard and effectively notify employees of the emergency.

Step Four: Assign Roles and Responsibilities
Select specific individuals who will be responsible for leading and coordinating an emergency evacuation. This step is critical in the success of an emergency evacuation plan. The identified individual (or group of individuals) will be required to supervise the evacuation efforts, coordinate outside emergency services, and manage the shutdown of services/operations if deemed necessary. This person will also be the go-to contact for on-site employees.

Step Five: Vital Business Records and Secure Backup
Vital records, including computer backups, should be kept in a waterproof, fireproof container at an off-site storage location. Hard copies should include site maps, building plans, insurance policies, bank account records, and property-specific documents.

Step Six: Deliver Plan and Schedule Regular Mandatory Emergency and Evacuation Employee Trainings.
The emergency evacuation plan should be part of the new hire orientation, incorporated into the employee handbook (made available digitally and printed), and revisited with all employees annually. Whether annual training is managed in-house or executed by the VensureHR Loss Control team, employees must have the tools necessary to ensure they are operating in a safe work environment where emergency evacuation plans have been designed.

Preparing your employees well in advance of an emergency evacuation, and scheduling regular mandatory training sessions is critical to the safety of all employees and the building or worksite. Spend the time to prepare or update an existing evacuation procedure. It may be necessary to make changes to evacuation procedures or how you or employees should respond in specific emergencies.  Contact us for assistance in updating an emergency preparedness plan, to implement a proper risk and safety program, including on-site hazard assessments, or to schedule OSHA training for your employees.

Unpacking Voluntary Benefits: Retaining Top Talent

Employers are tasked with finding new ways to attract and retain top talent. One of the more effective ways to stay competitive in the market is to offer coveted, quality voluntary and supplemental benefits. “92% of employees indicated benefits are important to their overall job satisfaction.” A well-rounded voluntary employee benefits package the business can recruit and retain top talent from the multi-generational talent pool that supports each group’s unique lifestyle and needs. Contact VensureHR to start the process of reviewing your existing benefits package, managing your existing employee base, and designing a package everyone will find valuable.

Society for Human Resource Management: 2018 Employee Benefits Report

Introducing Cannabis Policies to Your Handbook

“As of June 25, 2019, 14 states…have approved adult-use cannabis.” Additionally, “a total of 33 states…have approved a comprehensive, publicly available medical marijuana/cannabis program.”

Companies have to navigate the new cannabis legalization laws sweeping the country, making employee health and safety becomes increasingly more important. While many organizations have adopted some sort of “drug-free workplace policy,” some businesses have chosen to revamp their stance on legalized marijuana use for health and medicinal purposes. For this reason, updating your company handbook to include a policy around cannabis or legalized drug use is a topic of conversation.

A somewhat sensitive and complicated topic for both employees and employers, these changing laws can cause uncertainty in the workplace. Before getting started with revamping your company’s existing policies, or introducing a new policy on cannabis, make sure the HR team is educated on the topic of medically necessary cannabis, often handled similarly to any other medication.

Items to Consider:

  • The legalization of marijuana in one state does not mean that it is legal in another state, even if the business operates over multiple state lines.
  • If your organization is firm on maintaining its drug-free workplace policy, set some time aside to review the policy carefully and ensure it is worded properly and up-to-date.
  • Regardless of your business’s stance on cannabis legalization, ensure employees are aware and understand the policy by requesting employees to acknowledge the policy as part of the new hire onboarding program. If at any time your company needs to make changes to this or any other policy, you will need to write an addendum, ensure it is signed by all existing employees, and add the revised policy to the employee handbook.
  • Workers who operate heavy machinery or whose jobs require them to have a commercial driver license are still subject to the standard

 

Medical marijuana and drug testing policies may include any of the following points:

  • Testing procedures including reasonable suspicion, post-accident testing, and random testing*
  • Consequences for policy violation
  • Details around possession of cannabis or other drugs on work premises
  • Exceptions and/or a statement that the company will explore reasonable accommodations for medical cannabis users, subject to state and federal accommodation laws

As the handbook editing process comes to a close, it will be important to make sure the handbook remains in compliance with both federal and state laws prior to publishing internally to employees. Contact us to learn more about setting clear standards and introducing or updating your current employee handbook to include new policy information pertaining to cannabis.

 

* Testing procedures vary by state, including some cities, and random drug testing is permitted on limited circumstances dependent on industry, public or private organizations, and position. Consult your local and state legislation and regulation concerning these procedures.

 

 

National Conference of State Legislatures: State Medical Marijuana Laws

Controlling Workers’ Compensation Costs

When it comes to controlling business costs, there are a number of phases employers go through, such as moving the business to a less expensive building in a more economical part of town or cutting advertising costs.

But two of the overlooked ways to control costs are cutting insurance costs or implementing a safety program to better manage workers’ compensation costs. Taking steps to mitigate workers’ compensation risks and manage claims can be a great opportunity for any business where the safety of their workers is a concern.

Alleviate costs by taking steps to implement any of the following:

Encourage your internal teams to establish a well-planned and detailed new hire onboarding program that reinforces a strong safety culture. Here are some steps that you can integrate into your existing onboarding program that will also help control unnecessary or redundant workers’ compensation claim costs.

Create Good Habits
Starting at the beginning for new employees means taking the time to acclimate them to how your business operates in terms of safety procedures, jobsite dos/don’ts and, potential hazards. Repetition is key for any new employee learning the ropes, but especially for those workers who are jumping into a new role.

Use the Buddy System
Provide each new employee with a veteran employee buddy. The goal of this partnership is to help the new employee get acclimated more quickly to the new environment. The veteran employee will use their time together to discuss safety concerns and identify potential hazards. As these worksites can become overwhelming with the amount of hustle and bustle, it will be important for the new employee to have a partner who is able to help keep an eye out for them and monitor their safety until they are ready to venture out on their own.

Commit to Safety
Encourage managers and team leaders to commit to safety goals and practice what they preach. Setting a good example for employees early means that management must be “all in” on safety. Building a foundation of safety-focused programs with a goal of keeping claim costs low will be key to solidifying each employees’ connection to the organization.

 

Companies who forgo building a strong culture of safety or are looking to cut organizational costs may be left feeling as if they are uncertain of how to ultimately control their claim costs. Don’t go it alone! Contact us to learn how to effectively control your workers’ compensation costs while building an even stronger safety culture and associated training programs.