This Web Exclusive article was contributed by Bob Risk, senior strategic safety, health and wellness manager for Staples.
Natural disasters represent a major safety concern for facility managers and office workers alike, but have businesses been doing enough to prepare for the worst? A recent study conducted by Staples Advantage, the business-to-business division of Staples, Inc., revealed some troubling discrepancies between perception and fact. Prior to National Safety Month this past June, Staples Advantage conducted its second annual workplace safety study, prompting 60% of businesses to divulge they have not re-evaluated their safety procedures after recent disasters, such as Hurricane Sandy.
However, responses from employee participants revealed potential areas for concern for facility managers. Although three out of four respondents believe their businesses take safety seriously, only half expressed knowledge of a concrete emergency plan. Among those who have dealt with emergency circumstances at work, nearly 25% said their businesses conveyed the proper procedures only at the last minute. In addition, smaller businesses appear to be more at risk than medium-sized businesses. Though it’s not shocking that medium-sized businesses attested to a wider array of safety equipment on-site, the gap widens when considering that medium-sized businesses also reported a higher likelihood of having plans in place for evacuation, shelter, and building lockdown.
The results of this survey are not without solutions. There are a number of precautions that facility managers should take to prepare for emergencies and prevent accidents:
- Devise and communicate a clear-cut emergency evacuation plan.
- Stock up on essential emergency items, such as fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and enough food, water, flashlights, batteries, and blankets to last for three days.
- Survey respondents expressed concern regarding everyday occurrences like trips, slips, and falls, so consider installing floor matting and hazard signs where appropriate to prevent accidents.
- One-third of surveyed employees reported pain or discomfort because of unsafe and uncomfortable equipment. For employee comfort and health, consider providing chairs and workstations with an eye toward ergonomics.
- Lastly, businesses should make digital security a priority by taking measures to back up data.
Businesses and the facility managers that keep them running smoothly have an obligation to their employees and occupants to ensure a safe and secure working environment. Without that, they place their workers in danger and alienate those who drive their business in the first place, so take time to evaluate your safety plan properly to determine if there are any further measures you could be taking.
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