Health and Safety in Disasters
Recorded On: 12/09/2020
Emergency responders face many hazards on the job. While emergency response is a hazardous occupation, appropriate training for personnel who are equipped with appropriate tools and equipment, and appropriate Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), can reduce, or at least, minimize responder injuries and illnesses. Training, practice, and experience build capabilities necessary to perform this work safely every day. Many responses are routine, and this preparation minimizes risk.
Certain emergencies are less routine and pose hazards that responders may be less prepared for because they do not face these hazards in their ordinary day-to-day work, such as a mass casualty incident in a large facility such as a stadium, a train derailment, or a hazardous materials response to a chemical processing plant that is subject to OSHA’s Process Safety Management Standard. Federal and State laws require that emergency responders work with owners and operators in planning and exercises to prepare for unique hazards from these operations. Other organizations and workplaces also have unique hazards, and although not required by law, it is in the best interest of responder safety to use a similar stakeholder participation process in emergency planning, and to utilize site specific knowledge during a response when an incident occurs. Museum artifacts may contain residues of arsenic, cyanide, lead, or other hazardous materials that can pose risk to responders. Museum operators have unique knowledge of these hazards at their facilities and should be prepared to participate in planning and exercising incident scenarios. During a response, museum personnel should coordinate with the Safety Officer to assess unique hazards as they arise. To be effective in this role, museum personnel must develop a good operating understanding if the Incident Command System and how they can be incorporated into this system to be most effective. Safety Officers must also understand that coordination with onsite personnel during a response is necessary to best ensure the safety of all responders.
Dana Stahl is the author of Health and Safety in Emergency Management and Response published by John Wiley and Sons. She is a Certified Industrial Hygienist with more than 20 years experience managing health and safety programs in private industry and the public sector. She holds a degree in Biology from the University of California, Berkeley, and a Masters Degree in Environmental Health with emphasis in Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology from the University of Washington. She is currently the Safety and Health Manager for The Seattle Public Library and has held positions managing health and safety programs in the Corporate Safety Department at the Port of Seattle, as the Manager of Health, Safety and Emergency Management at The Central Puget Sound Regional Transit Authority. She is an instructor for the Pacific Northwest OSHA Training Center, where she developed the Emergency Safety Officer Course and the Emergency Safety Specialist Certificate Program.