Hurricane season is one of the most potentially devastating for businesses in the Gulf South. With nearly 40% of businesses unable to reopen after a disaster strikes, preparing your company in advance is critical. Businesses need to consider the safety of their employees, and their business through any potential disaster. 

When Is My Business Liable For My Employees Safety?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states “Each employer is responsible for the safety and health of its workers and for providing a safe and healthful workplace for its workers. Employers are required to protect workers from the anticipated hazards associated with the response and recovery operations that workers are likely to conduct.” 

Liability During A Disaster

As a business owner, you are responsible for the safety of your employees when they are on the job. Requiring employees to work during an active hurricane or other natural disaster opens up your business to liability. 

Additionally, if an employee is injured during a natural disaster while on the job that could translate to liability for an employer. Not only would this situation bring potentially bad PR for your business, it also leads employees to believe that you do not care about their safety and do not care about maintaining a safe work environment. Keeping your employees’ safety at the forefront of your business is key to keeping your employees happy and engaged in the workplace. 

Liability After A Disaster

If you require employees to return to the worksite, your business is equally responsible for your employees’ safety after a disaster strikes. Employers should check the site for damage, ensure that dangerous situations do not exist on site, and make sure that hidden dangers are not present. The goal is to make sure that the worksite has not become unsafe because of the disaster. 

If your team is able to help with clean up after a natural disaster, the business needs to provide protective equipment to ensure safety. The level of protective equipment will be determined by the level of clean-up occurring. You will also want to ensure that proper safety measures are being consistently implemented by your entire team at all times. Engaging supervisors in enforcing safety protocol is important. Allowing for potentially dangerous “quick fixes” in the name of saving time can be a source of potential liability in the long run. 

Keep in mind that disaster sites are not the same as construction sites. If your team is well equipped for construction, it doesn’t mean that they’re prepared for a disaster site. Cleaning up after a disaster is a skilled service that requires trained employees. Stay ahead of the curve and train your employees before a disaster strikes

How Should My Business Prepare For A Disaster

Some businesses are required to have an Emergency Action Plan that meets the requirements under 29 CFR 1910.38. However, every business should have a disaster plan in place that is well communicated to the employees. 

Some items you should consider including in your action plan are:

  1. Conditions (or storm severity) that will activate the plan 
  2. How the organization plans to communicate during a disaster
  3. Instructions for accounting for your entire team, and 
  4. Information on operations will restart after a non-damaging storm. 

In the case of hurricane preparedness, your plan should include information on safe evacuation procedures including required steps employees should take before evacuation. This should include details of following state or local guidelines when evacuation is required or recommended. You should also outline scenarios or steps that will trigger a remote-work situation. Keep in mind that when you set the expectation that employees will work remotely if they evacuate, then you will also need to provide the equipment and training necessary to do so. 

How Do I Avoid Liability For My Business?

The best way to avoid potential lawsuits is to have a plan before you need a plan. By preparing in advance for natural disasters and making sure that your whole team is on the same page, you eliminate some of the confusion and uncertainty that comes when these situations occur. When hurricane season approaches and throughout the duration of hurricane season, it is important to reiterate your plan to employees.

You should also consult with your attorneys about your hurricane preparedness plan. Use their expertise to make sure that the policies and procedures in place are up-to-date and carefully drafted to be specific for the unique situations that your company may encounter. It is also important to remain reasonable with your employees when these events happen. Make sure that you are working with your employees to enact fair preparedness policies and procedures. Focus on ensuring their safety, and ensure that employees have adequate time and resources during a disaster, so they can be responsive to the needs of the organization as the disaster subsides. 

Preparation for these types of events is the only way to ensure that you set your organization and your staff up for the best possible outcome when facing a natural disaster. 

Transcendent Law Group combines the best legal minds, the best business practices with the best technology to obtain the best results. Contact us today to learn more about how we help businesses across the gulf south!