Foulke Emphasizes the Need for Employers to Develop Disaster Plans

OSHA administrator Edwin Foulke Jr. set the stage for the Second Annual Emergency Preparedness Conference in Washington, D.C., by uttering two words that, according to him, boiled down the lessons learned from 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina: Be prepared.

"OSHA practices this credo every day as we strive to help keep America's workplaces safe and healthful," he said.

In the aftermath of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, OSHA and other organizations were on the ground in an effort to help ensure the safety of employees involved in recovery efforts.

OSHA, however, has been heavily criticized in recent months about its decision to exempt enforcement in areas hit hard by disasters such as Ground Zero in New York City and several counties and parishes along the Gulf Coast.

Foulke did not allude to these criticisms and instead detailed four key lessons the agency has learned as a result of these two events:

  1. It is essential that every employer develops and implements an emergency response plan to protect employees against catastrophic events, whether manmade or natural. These plans should include procedures for protecting the safety and health of those employees at every worksite who will be first responders in an emergency.
  2. From 9/11 and Katrina, we understand that every business should include in its plan procedures to facilitate the arrival of external responders, such as firefighters, medical personnel and police.
  3. Whether the number of employees at a site is large or small, an employer's emergency response plan also should be coordinated with the plans drawn up by local officials in their communities.
  4. Emergency receivers face unique challenges and have unique needs that must be considered in an overall community emergency response plan.

Foulke: OSHA Hopes to Publish Flu Pandemic Guidance Documents Soon

Foulke also noted that the agency currently is engaged in a national effort to prepare a coordinated emergency response to a possible flu pandemic.

According to Foulke, OSHA has been examining workplace safety and health concerns related to this threat for nearly a year. Committees of OSHA employees have helped develop a group of guidance documents that focus on recognizing and combating the hazards of a pandemic.

"We hope to publish these documents very soon, and at this conference you will learn more about the valuable information they contain," Foulke said.

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