Companies are taking steps to improve safety in the workplace by planning for emergencies, but communication issues and poor preparedness for modern emergencies is putting employees at risk, according to a recent report from Rave Mobile Security.
The company’s 2019 Workplace Safety and Preparedness Survey shows that emergency preparedness is improving in the United States and many businesses and organizations are planning for active shooter emergencies, cyberattacks, system outages, and workplace violence incidents, but oftentimes those plans are not effectively communicated to employees and plans are not tested to make sure they work.
The report is based on a survey of 540 full time U.S. employees who were asked their views on the emergency plans that had been put in place by their employers and the communications systems used to alert them to emergency situations.
The survey shows that there are communication issues at many companies and emergency plans are not well understood by many employees. 20% of surveyed workers did not know about the emergency plan for a cyberattack or system outage, 18% were unaware of the plan for an active shooter emergency, and 18% were hazy about the plan for incidences of workplace violence. 37% of surveyed female employees were unaware of workplace violence emergency plans.
More than 2 million workers are injured in workplace violence incidents in the United States every year, according to figures from the National Safety Council. Violence in the workplace is the second leading cause of death for female workers, and the third leading cause of death in healthcare, business, law, and the media. In order to ensure employee safety, greater efforts are required to communicate emergency plans to all employees.
As recent ransomware attacks have shown, having a plan in place does not guarantee an easy recovery. Plans must be tested regularly to make sure they are effective. The same is true for all emergency plans, yet many businesses and organizations are not testing their plans and do not perform regular drills.
55% of surveyed employees said their employer did not conduct drills and tests of emergency plans for cyberattacks, 53% said emergency plans for workplace violence incidents were not tested, and 45% never tested plans for medical emergencies. 20% of respondents said fire drills were not performed.
In emergency situations it is important to be able to communicate with employees, including on-site and mobile workers. Fire alarms are effective in offices, but other emergency situations require different methods of alerting employees to a threat. Many are turning to mobile technology to ensure the safety of staff.
16% of employees said their company uses mobile apps for communication in emergencies and 44% use text messages, although the main method of communication is email, used by 55% of businesses and organizations.
While email is fast, there can be delays and it is often ineffective in the event of a cyberattack. Mobile technology is faster, more convenient, and it is preferred by 50% of employees.
Mobile technology has also advanced considerably in recent years. It is now possible to send location-based alerts to individuals in a specific area, rather than sending warnings to all employees, many of whom will not be at risk. Geo-poll responses are useful as they can be set up to require a response from all individuals to ensure that they are safe, again, based on geographical location determined by GPS.
“This year’s survey continues to emphasize that more needs to be done to drive safety awareness in an organization’s everyday operations. Employers must also examine how they can bridge the gap between preparedness plans and the drills in place and realities of what their workers could encounter while on the job,” said Todd Piett, CEO of Rave Mobile Safety.
You can read the workplace safety survey results here.