Overview: No matter what precautions are taken to stop it, natural disasters are outside of the employer's control. No amount of wishing it away will get rid of a hurricane, a blizzard, a volcano or any other activity that nature throws at the workplace. Instead of fighting it, employers should prepare with an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) and much practice.
Employers should identify the types of natural disasters that are likely to affect the workplace. An employer in Kansas might not need a plan to respond to a volcano, for example, where a Hawaiian employer might. While it is good to be prepared for anything, and a good EAP will be flexible for the unexpected, the focus for plans should be on what is likely.
Once a risk analysis has determined what specific plans and building safeguards are needed at a workplace, which is part of a good risk management plan, employers can create plans and nature-proof the buildings. Before any weather actually hits, though, the workplace should be drilled to test the plans and to make sure that employees know what to do when nature strikes. The better and more often the drills, the better prepared the employer will be to handle anything nature throws its way.
Trends: For the last several years, the weather has been increasingly less predictable. For this reason, it is extra important for employers to be prepared for a wide variety of natural disasters that could hit the workplace.
Author: Ashley Shaw, JD, Legal Editor
Employers seeking to advise employees how to proceed in case of bad weather should consider including this model policy statement in their handbook.
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HR guidance on preparing for and responding to natural disasters.