July 8, 2020
Is your business located in a hurricane-prone area?
After everything that’s already happened in 2020, the last thing anyone needs is the possibility of a natural disaster. Unfortunately, hurricanes have been getting stronger and stronger over the last decade, posing a significant threat to most states along the east coast of the U.S.
You’ve likely been taking precautions against COVID-19 in the workplace, but it’s also vital that you prepare for hurricane season. If a storm hits with little warning, your workers and employees could be at risk, something you want to avoid at all costs. If there are any hurricane-related injuries while your workers are on-the-job, there might be several Workers’ Compensation claims on the horizon. Here are some hazards you want to avoid during this upcoming hurricane season:
The best way to avoid Workers’ Comp claims is to prevent injuries before they happen. To put it simply, if there is a hurricane predicted, you should consider closing down the workplace for a day.
Sometimes, this might not be necessary if it is a lower category of storm, depending on your area’s topography and hurricane preparedness level. But when you’re facing a Category-4 or 5 hurricane, your workers could be confronted with significant levels of danger if they come into work.
But what if everyone is already at work when a hurricane hits? In that case, the safety of your employees should be your primary consideration.
In this situation, having a clear evacuation plan is essential. You need to get everyone out of the workplace and to safety as quickly as possible in an orderly manner. Ensure that every employee is not just aware of your hurricane/natural disaster-preparedness plan, but can execute without delay. Parts of this plan should include areas of the building to avoid, where to congregate, and how workers will know it is safe to return to work after the hurricane is over.
Of course, evacuation might not be the best option. If there is active flooding or hazardous levels of rain and wind while employees are still in the building, the safest plan might be to stay there until it blows over. In which case, your Workers’ Compensation Insurance policy must have you and your employees covered for natural disasters, as they will be sheltering in your workplace.
The scariest part of a hurricane is when the winds are howling and the rain. But many of the real dangers for workers are found in the post-hurricane recovery.
Immediately post-hurricane, you must confirm that it is safe for your employees to return to work. If there is a hazard like downed power lines in the parking lot, that area should be avoided until the danger is passed, as leaving could result in injury or even death. Many people are now working from home, but you’ll need to assess the availability and (most importantly) the safety of your employees. Setting up a round robin of phone numbers means employees can check in with each other and report back to management if anyone may be stuck, without power, or need help.
If, on the other hand, the building was evacuated before the hurricane hit, you need to assess any potential damage to the building. Were any windows broken? Was the roof compromised? Did the hurricane cause any structural damage that could pose a severe risk of injury or death? If so, it may not be safe for your employees to reenter the building until the damage is repaired. If anyone does need to enter the building, confirm that there isn’t any immediate risk and take reasonable precautions, such as wearing a hardhat and safety goggles.
If there was any flooding or water damage to the workplace, it’s your responsibility to clean everything up and ensure that it’s safe long-term for your employees. Flooding can cause significant mold problems, making the workplace a potentially hazardous environment. While we primarily specialize in Workers’ Compensation insurance, we still advise you that having insurance covering natural disasters is essential, especially if you live in hurricane-prone areas.
With luck, we won’t be hit by any extreme hurricanes this upcoming year. But as an employer, you cannot take that risk and gamble with your employees’ safety. Living with the threat of major storms is just a reality for those in states like Florida, Texas, North Carolina, and others. But being fully prepared will keep your employees safe and limit your liability in the event of workplace injury.
If you have any questions about your Workers’ Compensation liability in the event of a hurricane, please feel free to drop us a line here. At Normandy Insurance, we specialize in Workers’ Compensation, and can make sure that your workers are fully covered in the event of injury due to a hurricane or other natural disaster.