Is your workplace prepared for an earthquake?

July 29, 2018

Even if you don’t live or work in an earthquake-prone area, don’t dismiss the threat. Earthquakes can occur in all 50 states.

Hazards that workers may encounter during and after an earthquake include being struck by a building’s structural components, furnishings or improperly stored materials; being burned by fires resulting from gas leaks or electrical shorts; and being exposed to released chemicals.

OSHA recommends employers take these steps to help mitigate the risks:

  • Ensure workers have a designated safe place – such as under a sturdy table or desk, or against an interior wall away from windows – to go in the event of an earthquake. Keep the distance an employee has to move as short as possible. “Injury statistics show that people moving as little as 10 feet during an earthquake’s shaking are most likely to be injured,” OSHA states.
  • Participate in a “Great ShakeOut” drill, part of an earthquake preparedness initiative co-sponsored by FEMA. For more information or to register your workplace, go to shakeout.org.
  • Regularly practice “drop, cover and hold on” in the designated safe places. Learn more at shakeout.org/dropcoverholdon.
  • Instruct employees on topics such as first aid and how to use a fire extinguisher.

If an earthquake occurs, workers should stay in their safe place until the shaking stops and remain alert for potential aftershocks. They also should be on the lookout for fires (the most common earthquake-related building hazard); use the stairs instead of elevators; and, if they’re outside when the earthquake begins, stay outside, crouch down and cover their heads.

OSHA also recommends that employers – especially those in areas with a high risk of earthquakes – perform a workplace survey to identify potential hazards to their workers if an earthquake occurs.

For more information on earthquakes, including what an emergency evacuation plan should include and a seismic activity map of the United States, visit osha.gov/dts/earthquakes/preparedness.html.