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Employers urged to remember severe weather safety

Even though the temperature is still unseasonably cold and snow is still piled high throughout the streets of Chicago, it's important to remember that spring is right around the corner. While this may seem hard to believe given our bitterly cold winter, consider that we are actually in the midst of National Severe Weather Preparedness Week.

As part of this annual event, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Occupational Safety and Health Administration have joined forces to remind people about the importance of taking the necessary steps to prepare for the severe weather season.

While it can be relatively easy to dismiss this event due to our current cold weather, consider that 2013 saw seven weather and climate events that caused over $1 billion in damages and took the lives of over 100 people. Furthermore, at least five of these events were severe weather and tornado events, something we are accustomed to seeing here in Illinois once the weather gets warmer.

As part of National Severe Weather Preparedness Week, both HOAA and OSHA have launched a public education campaign designed to provide businesses and workers with both preparation and safety information.

To illustrate the importance of this effort, consider that businesses -- through the work of their employees -- often look to rebuild and recover from a serious weather event as soon as possible.

However, in the immediate aftermath of a serious weather event like a tornado, workers face a multitude of dangers that can present serious or even fatal occupational health and safety risks, including:

  • Slip, trip and falls on slippery surfaces
  • Lacerations and puncture wounds from sharp debris
  • Head injuries from falling objects 
  • Electrocution from downed power lines and exposed wiring

The information compiled by NOAA and OSHA can therefore neutralize these risks by alerting businesses to their existence and reminding them of what special precautions they need to take to ensure that they honor their duty to keep workers safe.

Here's hoping that we see an altogether calm weather season over the coming months ...

Those who suffer debilitating injuries on the job here in Chicago should strongly consider speaking with an experienced attorney about their rights and their options concerning workers' compensation.

Source: EHS Today, "Be a force of nature during National Severe Weather Preparedness Week," Sandy Smith, March 5, 2014

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