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Hazardous Materials in the Workplace

Monday, March 15th, 2010
Help Hazmat Crews Help You

Help Hazmat Crews Help You

Virtually every workplace and tenant has chemicals or other potentially hazardous materials. These include simple, everyday cleaners that might be stored under the kitchenette sink as well as heavy-duty chemicals stored in manufacturing facilities. Remember that effective planning for any emergency requires education and preparation. Detailed information about what chemicals your tenants use will give you a head start in any disaster. For example, Hazmat crews need ready information about potential threats so they can contain and clean the area. If you do your homework beforehand, you’ll be able to help emergency personnel when they arrive on the scene.

Those who work with chemicals run an increased risk of chemical fires. Work with your tenants to be sure all protocols are in place and flammable and explosive materials are properly stored. The fire department needs to know exactly which chemicals are present, such as whether any agents are present that could potentially explode if they come in contact with water.

Dealing with Hazardous Materials:

  • In the kitchen, bathroom or storage areas:
    • Take an inventory of tenants’ cleaning products and where they are stored. Too many chemicals in a cramped area can lead to danger.
    • Instruct tenants and cleaning crews not to mix chemicals. For example, bleach products should never be mixed with ammonia.
    • Make sure janitorial personnel alert your facility team to all major spills.
  • Chemical Labeling and Identification:
    • Proper labeling of materials is a first step in safety. For example, NFPA 704 is a group of standards on hazards denoting different degrees of potential harm.
      • The system uses a diamond shape that denotes red for “Flammability”, blue for “Health,” yellow for “Instability,” and white for “Special” hazards, such as chemicals that react violently with water. Allied Universal Training System users have access to information about “How to Read a Fire Diamond.”
      • Numbers from 0 to 4 rate the severity of the hazard.
      • Remind tenants of new code changes regarding labeling practices to help them stay in compliance.
  • Emergency Management:
    • Knowing which types of chemicals are being used or produced by tenants will help with proper emergency response.
    • Inform tenants about the different types of fire extinguishers needed for a variety of fire types, such as those caused by certain chemicals. Make sure you and tenants know what to expect and how to be prepared.
  • Teach your tenants to remember S.I.N.
    • Safety – Assume the materials are dangerous and keep a good distance.
    • Isolation – Close off the room or affected area of your building.
    • Notification – Make sure tenants notify 911 and building management.

If you take time to glance at the dozens of OSHA regulations for chemicals, from Nitrous Oxide to pool cleaning supplies, it will become apparent that attention and detail are required to ensure safety. If your tenant is producing complicated products using a variety of materials, it is your shared responsibility to follow all code requirements to protect your building.

Allied Universal Training System users have unrestricted access to lots of helpful links that will help identify and prepare hazardous materials-related emergencies. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

The United States of Emergency

Monday, March 8th, 2010
How is a State of Emergency Declared?

How is a State of Emergency Declared?

You’ve certainly heard about how the government declares “States of Emergency.” But have you ever wondered how exactly they go about making such declarations? Disasters of this scale involve substantial allocations of resources in terms of equipment, personnel and, of course, money.

With 59 FEMA major disaster declarations in 2009 and 12 already declared in 2010 (three, related to wild winter storms, have already been made in March), it is timely to look at how individual states declare emergencies and the role FEMA plays in reviewing and/or approving the allocation of federal funds.

Overall, how state and federal governments deal with emergencies is similar to how you, as a building owner or property manager, would handle any emergency. First, you assess the situation, ensuring that individual safety is the primary concern. Then, you look at the amount of damage that has been suffered and evaluate the anticipated costs for rebuilding and replacing, relative to money and labor.

Governors who are faced with large disasters go through several steps before requesting federal disaster assistance. The first step that FEMA takes is called a Preliminary Damage Assessment.

  • Personnel from FEMA and the affected state’s emergency management agency work together with local officials to survey the overall disaster and write an assessment.
  • This assessment helps the governor support a declaration request, as it gives an overall look at response effort costs including labor and related overtime. It also gives a thorough review of the state of emergency services’ capacity and the damage to citizen resources so the governor can show that the damage exceeds allocated state and local resources.
  • After the formal request is submitted to the regional FEMA office, FEMA considers the following when looking at any significant natural or manmade disaster to see if federal assistance is warranted:

For example, how many structures have been damaged? 10 homes or 1,000?  What about business? Was a large office park or manufacturing site affected which would reduce incomes of a large portion of the general population?

Can the public still use roadways or other transportation? Are basic services such as water and electricity working or are they likely to be quickly restored?

Are public health considerations necessary? Are local hospitals or other care centers affected?

  • What are the potential impacts to essential government services and functions?
    • Can the federal government better handle the work?
    • Does the overall scale of the disaster require assistance on a large scale?
    • How concentrated or disperse is the emergency? FEMA officials will work with State agencies to assess if there are enough state personnel available to manage the disaster.
  • What are the implications of insurance coverage for homeowners and public facilities?
    • If the area is one that lacks proper insurance coverage, then losses will be more severe and rebuilding effort timeframes will be lengthy.
    • State and local resource commitments from other prior disasters might stretch resources.
    • FEMA submits findings to the Office of the President.
    • The President decides if a Presidential Disaster Declaration should be made. If such a declaration is made, FEMA’s share of disaster expenses will be at least 75% of the total cost.

There are lessons about collaboration and preparation to be learned in the methodical approach that FEMA officials take to reviewing a disaster. We encourage building owners to engage tenants as valuable partners in safety and disaster planning.

For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact Allied Universal. Our e-based system offers the best emergency training available, with automated and integrated features. Visit rjwestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.