Emergency Planning: Protecting Front-Line Workers

  December 23, 2010

This is Chris Matt, Managing Editor of Print & E-Media with Maintenance Solutions magazine. Today's tip is protecting second responders during an emergency.

First responders tend to get more attention for their efforts in responding to emergencies because they have to react in real time. Events on Sept. 11, 2001, demonstrated the dangerous nature the work first responders perform.

But the work of second responders is no less dangerous. There are many potential hazards for second responders, and the pressure to quickly repair the building and its equipment and restore operations magnifies these hazards. Couple this pressure with the emotional stress of the emergency event, and major problems can occur.

Here is a list of the most common hazards second responders face when working to restore a facility and its operations:
• Confined spaces. Responding after an emergency event is no time to ignore proper procedures related to air monitoring and entry.
• Electrical hazards. De-energizing of equipment using proper lockout/tagout procedures is essential at all times, including after an emergency.
• Lack of proper hydration and sun protection.
• Air quality.
• Lack of personal protective equipment (PPE). Real problems can occur if a department does not have enough PPE available or if users do not understand the limitations of the PPE.
• Hazardous driving conditions.
• Slips and falls. These incidents are perhaps the most common hazard after an emergency.
• Exhaustion. In their zeal to help facilities and occupants return to normalcy, second responders often work extended shifts and overwork themselves.
• Falls from elevated locations. Working from roofs, towers and other elevated locations can result in serious injuries without proper fall protection.
• And, finally, exposure to chemical spills. An emergency might cause chemical spills and even dangerous chemical mixtures.


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