In an average year, the United States will experience 16 major earthquakes of magnitude 7.0 or greater, which are capable of causing serious damage to buildings, bridges and roads.
California, Alaska and the Mississippi Valley are America’s highest-risk areas, but earthquakes can happen anywhere, so it’s important for contractors to establish an emergency plan for each jobsite and make sure all employees know what to do if the earth starts shaking.
If you’re unsure what to include in your emergency plan, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has an online tool to help you get started. Your plan will establish key decision makers and protocols, and it will include contact information for all employees.
On each jobsite, identify safe places away from gas or fuel lines, buildings, lights and power lines. If you are outdoors when an earthquake begins, go to the nearest safe place and follow the three-step earthquake safety strategy — drop, cover and hold on — until the shaking stops. If you’re indoors, apply the “drop, cover and hold on” strategy by getting under the closest sturdy object that could protect you from falling objects. If you’re driving or operating heavy equipment, stop and wait out the earthquake with your seatbelt on.
You should remain in your safe place until the shaking stops, then check on nearby coworkers and perform first aid if needed. If you smell gas or detect a gas leak, shut off the main valve and extinguish any small fires. As soon as possible, get to a safer location, because aftershocks can cause further damage.
The danger doesn’t end when the quake stops. Among the hazards are fires, hazardous material leaks and downed power lines. Depending on your location, earthquakes can set off other natural disasters, such as tsunamis, landslides or avalanches.
Before you return to work on your jobsites, engineers should ensure the ground is safe for heavy machinery and assess the structural integrity of the buildings. Assume stairs, floors and roofs are unstable until they’re inspected. Contact with your utility provider to reconnect gas service.
Depending on the damage, you might need generators to provide power, as well as earthmoving and material handling equipment to remove downed trees and damaged structures.
A safety plan can help you protect your people and equipment, and EquipmentShare’s insurance partner, Leif Assurance — an agency that specializes in construction insurance — can help you protect your business. An agent can help you compare quotes and customize coverage limits to fit your needs.