Earthquakes are impossible to prevent and difficult to predict. But along the West Coast, everyone knows that these natural disasters are inevitable. According to the United States Geological Survey, there is a 75% chance that a 7.0 magnitude earthquake will hit Southern California sometime in the next 30 years. That’s not an earth shattering quake, just large enough to cause extensive destruction. MSN recently took a look at the potential disaster scenario, and the results aren’t pretty. Newer buildings are constructed to be earthquake resistant, and many older buildings are being retrofitted with seismic protection measures. But no workplace is completely safe when an earthquake strikes.
Potential Earthquake Hazards at Work
During and after an earthquake, a workplace can pose many hazards. Employees may be:
- Crushed by structural components that give way
- Struck by furnishings or décor that moves with the quake
- Poisoned or suffocated by harmful chemicals released from ruptured containers or lines
- Burned by fires resulting from gas leaks or electrical shorts
How to Prepare Employees for an Earthquake
An earthquake happens very suddenly and workers must react quickly to find shelter wherever they are. They should be trained to move immediately to a “safer place”. Outdoors, this would be a location away from trees, buildings, street lamps, and overhead lines. Indoors, this might be under a sturdy table or near an interior wall away from windows and heavy furniture such as shelving. Moving the shortest distance possible to get to a safe place reduces the chance of injury. Have employees practice the “drop, cover, hold on” move in a variety of safe places on a regular basis. During this exercise, they should:
- Take cover under a sturdy desk or table
- Hold on to one leg of the furniture
- Cover their eyes by keeping their head down
When the initial quake is over, workers must be aware that danger is still present. They should move with caution, watching for hazards such as broken glass, fires, falling debris, damaged electrical lines, and chemical leaks. Aftershocks may further weaken structures and create new hazards. When instructed to evacuate, workers should follow the emergency evacuation plan being sure to use the stairs rather than the elevator.
How to Prepare Facilities for an Earthquake
In a wastewater treatment facility, there are many toxic, flammable, explosive, and asphyxiating materials present. If these substances are released, the resulting hazards could make an earthquake even more deadly. Ensuring chemicals and hazardous substances are properly stored is essential for earthquake preparedness. Safety measures might include using special containers, securing tanks and cylinders, and isolating ventilation systems in areas where chemicals are used, generated, or stored.
There are many additional ways to reduce the risk of injury during and after an earthquake. This includes:
- Restraining and anchoring objects that might move
- Stocking shelter-in-place locations with disaster supply kits
- Keeping the emergency evacuation plan and associated training up to date.
For a fresh look at your emergency response plans and employee safety training programs, contact DKF Solutions for a consultation.