Workplace power outages can become more than inconveniences. They can also pose safety risks to the people affected. Here’s how to minimize the associated threats.
Understand the company’s power outage risk
A good starting point is for business leaders to learn what factors are most likely to cause future power outages. One recent study of the electricity supply on the west coast of the United States found that climate change and associated severe weather will likely put the electrical grid under more strain.
Beyond that study, some areas of the country are particularly likely to experience hurricanes and ice storms depending on the season and the amount of local preparedness for dealing with those events. Company decision-makers should assess how they have historically dealt with power outages. Did any safety issues arise during those instances? What lessons did the business learn from them?
Compiling that information can help people quantify the workplace’s risk factors. From there, they’re in better positions to mitigate the possible threats.
Ensure emergency lighting works
Company leaders should also verify that their emergency lighting activates once the power goes out. Having it in areas like hallways and restrooms can help people move around safely and avoid the disorientation that can come from a sudden change in environmental lighting.
Several standards dictate how and where to place emergency lights in a commercial setting. However, companies must test these systems monthly for at least 30 seconds to check that they perform as expected.
Tell team members about these tests well in advance. Otherwise, they may think there is an actual power outage and start to panic.
Distribute preparedness kits
The lights are not the only things affected during a power outage. The water supply often is, too. Depending on the setup, it may run at a lower pressure than usual or stop working immediately. Given that people need to drink water at least every 72 hours to stay alive, companies should stock up on bottled water before power outages.
Water is an essential part of power outage preparedness kits that can help employees feel better equipped to deal with the loss of electricity. Consider including portable flashlights. The open flames from candles are fire hazards, making them inappropriate light sources.
Snacks, portable power banks, and first-aid supplies are also useful things to add to a preparedness kit. Try to strike a balance of practicality and comfort to show employees you care.
Create equipment shutdown and safe evacuation plans
Staying safe during a workplace power outage also means knowing how to shut down critical equipment or make sure it has generator power. Checklists can help people remember to go through the necessary steps, even if they’re feeling under extra pressure due to the power outage.
Make evacuation plans and post them in highly visible locations. The team members can follow those once all machinery and equipment have been shut down or otherwise dealt with, if it’s necessary to leave the building. The reason for the power outage will help decision-makers know if it’s safer for people to stay inside the workplace or leave it for a chosen outdoor meeting point.
Use a thermometer to check temperature-sensitive goods
During a power outage, it’s critical to ensure people do what they can to keep refrigerated and frozen items cold enough. A good starting point is to remind workers not to open the door on the refrigerator or freezer unless they absolutely must.
Food safety experts say that frozen or refrigerated goods cannot stay above 40 degrees Fahrenheit for more than two hours and remain safe to eat. The timeframe is only 60 minutes if the temperature in question is above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. These specifics also apply to medicines that team members need to keep cold.
Refrigerators will keep food cold for about four hours if left unopened. However, once the power comes back on, it’s best to use a thermometer to verify the internal temperature before consuming something.
Show perpetual preparedness for power outages
Besides applying these specific tips at a workplace, it’s ideal to convey to workers that a company’s representatives have thought at length about keeping them safe when the lights go out. That way, people will feel more at ease during those events, knowing that the relevant parties at their workplace have plans to keep them safe and comfortable.