In 2017, Hurricane Harvey battered the Gulf Coast causing an estimated $125 billion in damage, according to the National Hurricane Center. The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June to November and peaks between August and October. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season begins mid May and also ends in November. OSHA Code 29 C.F.R. 1910.38 requires all workplaces with more than 10 employees to develop a written Emergency Action Plan (EAP), when required by an OSHA standard, to identify and coordinate necessary employer and employee actions during an emergency.
Employers should have an effective means of communicating with employees about the following during an emergency:
- Whether to evacuate or stay put;
- How and where to get information about the emergency itself;
- What areas of the building to avoid;
- How and when it is safe to return to the work area;
- How and when it is acceptable to contact family members and loved ones.
OSHA’s website provides a Hazard Exposure and Risk Assessment Matrix for Hurricane Response and Recovery Work, outlining the most commonly performed duties during hurricane response and recovery work, and the hazards employees could face. OSHA has developed specific standards to address many of these hazards. For example, OSHA’s Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response standard, 29 C.F.R. § 1910.120, applies to employees who are performing clean-ups of hazardous waste or other hazardous materials. OSHA’s asbestos and lead standards require employers to evaluate the level or exposure to employees, provide appropriate protective equipment, and in some cases, conduct regular monitoring of air quality in the work area.