Manufacturing and Tornadoes Part 1: How Well Could Your Facility Weather a Natural Disaster?

Safety is always a primary concern for manufacturing company leaders, and most have strict guidelines, regulations, and contingency plans in place to maintain safe work environments on a daily basis. Unfortunately, often the most impactful safety issues are the unexpected and unpredictable events Mother Nature dishes out. In addition to safety concerns, natural disasters can disrupt manufacturing company operations, which can have devastating effects on their financial well-being.

Just ask Jason Andringa, CEO of Vermeer Manufacturing, after one of several tornadoes that ripped across central Iowa July 20 slammed the company. Although the facility suffered extensive damage, employees only reported seven injuries, and none were life-threatening. Andringa credits the lack of injuries to preparation for just such an event.

Being prepared can also minimize impacts on your manufacturing operations and even be a determining factor in whether your company survives such a blow. How well could your enterprise weather this type of storm or similar natural disaster? Here are some best practices to help you safeguard the health of your workers and your manufacturing company.

Hope for the best, plan for the worst

Risk management shouldn’t be a response to an unexpected event. To be effective, you must put a risk plan in place before you need it. And because you can’t predict events like tornadoes, you must keep your emergency plan up to date and effectively communicate it to appropriate individuals. The Operational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) requires that all companies with more than 10 employees have a written comprehensive emergency action plan. A quick and appropriate response can mean the difference between survival and serious injury or death.

Emergency Checklist

You should also make sure the buildings at your manufacturing facility are structurally sound and able to withstand the extreme forces tornadoes can bring. Consult with an expert in wind-resistant design to analyze your structures and suggest ways for bolstering their ability to protect personnel against destructive forces.

Education and communication are key

Although important, an emergency plan and safe facility aren’t enough. Employers also need to educate workers about tornado warning signs, what funnel clouds look like, and how they behave. Employers need to monitor the weather, alert employees when danger is imminent, and have an orderly response plan. Use text messages, emails, or loudspeakers to notify employees of approaching danger. People should understand the safest places — basements, reinforced closets, and shower stalls — as well as areas to avoid — exterior walls, large glass windows, and rooms with high-beam ceilings — in the event of severe weather. Workers should also know what to do in a disaster’s aftermath and how to best help any workers who sustain injuries. Have periodic rehearsals and drills to ensure everyone knows how to respond quickly and appropriately.

In addition, make sure you have a backup communication system ready to implement in case of a failure. If possible, maintain a backup power source able to limit costly production shutdowns. And even if your company is not directly impacted by a natural disaster, companies in your supply chain could be, so have contingency plans and alternate suppliers lined up in advance.

Are you ready to weather a tornado or related natural disaster if it were to impact your manufacturing facility? Stay tuned for tomorrow’s blog, “Manufacturing and Tornadoes Part 2: How Well Could Your Facility Weather a Natural Disaster?” for a checklist you can use as you ensure you’re as prepared as possible.

No matter what Mother Nature brings, you can always count on the professionals at Global Electronic Services. Whether a run-of-the-mill machine fix or a repair after a natural disaster, we’re here for you. Contact us for all your industrial electronic, servo motor, AC and DC motor, hydraulic, and pneumatic needs — and don’t forget to like and follow us on Facebook!
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