Tornado Preparedness and Response for the Workplace

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Tornadoes often occur with little or no warning; taking precautions in advance can help employees stay safe from these storms when in the workplace. Precautions should include learning the warning signs that a tornado is imminent, monitoring tornado watches and warnings, and, most importantly, developing an emergency plan. Response after a tornado has occurred is also important since workers may face signficant hazards when dealing with the effects of the tornado.

To prepare for a tornado, businesses should develop an emergency plan. The plan should include details on suitable places to take shelter, procedures to ensure that all personnel are accounted for, the establishment of an alarm system to warn workers, customers, and visitors, and the means for dealing with any hazardous materials onsite.

A checklist is a common tool to ensure that emergency preparations are complete. Employers should consider a checklist of items for basic disaster safety supply kits as well as a checklist for tornado safety. The Red Cross offers a tornado safety checklist that is useful to post or disseminate to employees.

After a tornado, as businesses try to recover from the effects of the storm, workers may face significant hazards including the potential for additional storms, downed electrical wires, and sharp debris. There may also be hazards resulting from heat stress and equipment used in response and recover operations. You’ll find it useful to check out the list of potential hazards and general precautions provided by OSHA for dealing with a tornado’s aftermath.

Employers should keep in mind that they are responsible for the safety and health of their workers and are required to protect workers from anticipated hazards associated with response and recovery operations.