In addition to FEMA and other sources, there are a number of private companies who have responded (and are still responding) to Hurricane Harvey and other natural disasters across the country. These companies are often small (in comparison), family-owned operations, but they make a huge impact. Operating their own equipment, and sometimes leasing additional heavy equipment at the destination site, these companies tackle the work of removing debris, downed trees, and opening roadways. They are a huge part of the recovery process.
So here’s to those who leave their homes and families for weeks on end, who live out of hotels and travel trailers, and who dig through the rubble and destruction to allow healing and progress to take place.
This is the heart of America.
Regardless of your industry, there are several easy ways you can reduce injury hazards at your place of business. Take a walk around your premises and see if any of these apply to your property:
- Smoke detectors – This came as a surprise to me. I thought everyone had smoke detectors. Not so. From rental properties to restaurants, to professional offices, I find properties every week that are not equipped with smoke detectors. These devices save lives.
- Hand rails – Stairs with 3 or more risers or 30″ or more in height should be protected by handrails. Most insurance companies want these railings to have vertical balustrades of no more than 6″ apart (some have a maximum width of 4″). I see a lot of missing or deficient handrails in the field – if you have horizontal railings, you might consider enclosing them or adding vertical balustrades.
- Fire extinguishers – Extinguishers should be wall-mounted, and should be inspected annually. Tags should be affixed to the extinguishers evidencing those inspections.
- Overhanging tree limbs/branches – That shade tree is magnificent in the hot summer sun, but how many of those limbs are dead? How many branches are rubbing against the roof or exterior walls of your building? How much pressure are those limbs exerting upon your guttering? Spring is a great time to do a little trimming.
- Swimming pools – I see a lot of swimming pools, which present a high degree of risk, particularly in habitational properties. The most common deficiencies I see when inspecting pools are lack of self-latching gates and/or broken locks, and no emergency phone in the pool area. Many cities have ordinances requiring emergency phones in the pool area; check your local ordinances. Inspect all gates to assure the self-latching mechanism is in good operating order. This is a simple way to protect against small children entering the pool area unnoticed. After hours and off-season, make sure that gate is secured with a lock.
- Electrical panels – I still run across the old Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) electric panels and Stab-Lok breakers, both of present a heightened risk of fire. These panels and breakers were commonly used in construction between 1950 and 1990. I recommend inspection by a licensed electrician every time I locate an FPE panel or Stab-Lok breakers.
- Emergency lighting – All emergency egress and common exit doors in habitational and public assembly properties should be clearly identified with illuminated Exit signs above the door. Reflective paper signs are not sufficient! Emergency backup lighting should also be installed in all common hallways to illuminate paths of egress in the event of emergency.
- Documentation – Alcohol servers in Missouri should be TIPS or TAMS trained to promote safe alcohol service procedures. Bar owners should obtain a copy of server certificates from all serviers and maintain that document on file. Hire the right people, provide the right training opportunities, and protect your business.
- Driver records – Any business that hires employees for a driving position should obtain a pre-hire Motor Vehicle Record, and should review all drivers’ MVRs on an annual basis. Many insurance agents perform this service on behalf of their insureds; however, it is ultimately your responsibility to assure the safety of your driving force. (Oh, and by the way, it’s 2017: Do you have a formal distracted driving policy?)
- General housekeeping – This is the “catchall” category. The most common housekeeping issues tend to be:
- Clutter near mechanicals systems – you should maintain 3′ of clearance around all water heaters, HVAC systems, and electrical panels;
- Obstructed exit doors – this is frequently noticed in restaurants where bread racks and paper products are stacked along both sides of a hallway, creating a narrow path of egress to the exit;
- Debris – take a look around the exterior of your home; are items stored against the outside walls? Are grills located within 10′ of the structure? Are gas or other flammable/combustibles located under the porch? Are old tires laying around? Is the guttering damaged? What about the fascias and soffits?
Incorporating a weekly or monthly walk-through as part of your regular maintenance plan can help you find ways to improve safety and reduce risk on a continuous basis.
Are you the manager or decision-maker at your small business? Call us for a free assessment.