Most Employees Required to be Present in Severe Weather

A new survey shows businesses are unprepared to handle severe environmental factors safely

55 percent of workers polled said they were expected to show up to work in severe weather conditions, according to Staples’ fourth annual safety survey in honor of National Safety Month. Nearly half of respondents said they felt unsafe doing so.

Even though many workers had to be physically present in the office despite dangerous weather conditions, a majority of those surveyed lacked confidence that their employers were equipped to handle severe weather. In fact, nearly half of those surveyed said natural disasters have not led their workplace to reassess safety plans, and less than half feel their business is prepared to handle hot temperatures, snow and ice, cold, blizzards, earthquakes and hurricanes. These low levels of confidence could result from a lack of training and education, as one in four office workers have never experienced a safety drill in the office.

Getting work done when an emergency strikes is a problem for many businesses, as 55 percent of office workers are unable to telecommute. Communication is another issue, with nearly 30 percent of office workers saying they receive last minute notifications (or worse, none at all) about office closures.

When it comes to safety preparedness and knowledge, employers need to understand they may not be on the same page as their employees. The survey revealed discrepancies between employers’ and employees’ perception of safety processes and procedures in the workplace.

Many don’t know who to turn to for safety questions. Nearly 30 percent of office workers didn’t know if they had a resident safety expert to turn to with safety concerns or questions, versus only four percent of business decision makers.

Their knowledge regarding office safety plans differs. Decision makers, on average, were more aware of safety equipment and plans in the workplace, differing from office workers by 20 percent on average when it comes to fires, medical emergencies and power outages.

There are varying levels of confidence in safety preparedness. Overall, decision makers responded higher than office workers when asked if their workplace is prepared for natural disasters and associated issues, such as power outages (69 percent vs. 56), hot temperatures (54 percent vs. 43) and snow and ice (50 percent vs. 38).

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