A big earthquake can destroy thousands of buildings and kill and injure many people as the ground shakes. Earthquakes occur along fault lines where two sections of the Earth's outer layer press against each other in constant friction. In an earthquake, these sections slip suddenly and release energy that causes the earthquake's shaking. If your warehouse is located near a fault line, it is important to prepare for earthquakes to protect employees.
The best way to prevent earthquake-related injuries is to prepare. Warehouses are especially dangerous places during an earthquake because there are often shelves stacked high with heavy or dangerous goods. If your warehouse is in an earthquake area, bolt storage shelves to the floor and anchor the tops to the ceiling with steel channel bars. Ensure chemicals are secured and avoid storing in glass containers. Cover the shelves with removable fences to keep items from falling off of the shelves, and keep heavy items near the bottom shelves.
In addition to training warehouse staff to store items safely, an earthquake plan should be put in place in advance of an earthquake. Since warehouses are hazardous during earthquakes, determine a safe place where your employees can all fit and practice earthquake drills at least once a year. A safe place may be an office with a sturdy ceiling or a loading area where there are no nearby shelves. Make sure your employees know to move to the designated spot quickly and orderly as soon as shaking is felt.
During an Earthquake
If you are inside of a warehouse during an earthquake, quickly move to a safe place that is free of falling hazards. Crouch under a sturdy piece of furniture or cover your head with your arms, and stay put until the shaking stops. Stay away from any light fixtures that can fall and stay inside until the shaking stops. After the shaking stops, wait before exiting until you are sure the earthquake is done and you are safe.
Trapped Under Debris
If you become trapped under debris in a warehouse during the earthquake, avoid lighting a match and kicking up dust while you wait for rescue. Cover your mouth with clothing to protect yourself from dust and tap on a pipe or wall so rescuers can hear and locate you. Avoid shouting unless as a last resort as this can cause you to inhale a lot of dust.
After an earthquake, check employees for injuries and check the facility for hazardous spills or fires. Immediately and safely administer first aid to anyone who needs it, and clean or contain spilled chemicals. Avoid using the telephone except in emergencies and wait to travel until road conditions are known. Check the radio or government sources for follow up information about the earthquake. Keep in mind there could be strong aftershocks, so keep everyone in a safe place until it is safe to leave the building.