Majority of Workers Expected to Be Present During Severe Weather

By Roy Maurer Jun 5, 2015
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More than half of employees surveyed (55 percent) said they were expected to show up to work during severe weather conditions, even though half of those said they felt unsafe doing so, according to Staples’ fourth annual safety survey in honor of National Safety Month in June.

Staples conducted an online survey of 400 office workers and 400 managers at organizations of all sizes across the U.S. in May 2015.

While a majority of respondents said they were required to come to work despite dangerous weather conditions, many of those surveyed lacked confidence that their employers were equipped to handle severe weather. About 50 percent said their employers have not assessed emergency plans for severe weather events such as hurricanes and tornados, and less than half (43 percent) feel their worksite is prepared to handle extremely hot temperatures or snow and ice (38 percent). One in four workers said they have never experienced a safety drill in the office, and 30 percent report having never received safety training.

Regular safety training is important, said Bob Risk, national safety, health and wellness manager for Staples. “It is critical for the overall health of a business to have strong safety practices in place, and employees need to understand emergency procedures,” he said.

Additional survey findings include:

  • 55 percent of office workers are unable to telecommute. Not equipping employees with the right technology for telecommuting when necessary could be detrimental to a business, according to the Staples report. If possible, provide workers with the equipment they need to work safely from home during an emergency or natural disaster, the office retailer said.
  • 30 percent of respondents said they receive last-minute notifications or none at all about office closures. Employers should use all available means of communication, such as social media, e-mail and phone calls to communicate emergency plans.
  • 30 percent of employees said they didn’t know if they had an onsite safety expert at their workplace to turn to with questions or concerns.
  • Managers tended to respond more positively than office workers when asked if their workplace is prepared for natural disasters and associated issues, such as power outages (69 percent of managers said their workplace was prepared vs. 56 percent of workers), extreme hot temperatures (54 percent vs. 43 percent), and snow and ice (50 percent vs. 38 percent).

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him @SHRMRoy

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