Emergency Preparedness

Posted by Melissa Hall in #YHSafetyTips, Jan 30, 2019

Are you and your employees prepared to face an emergency in the workplace?

Emergencies can strike at any time and may occur when least expected. Proper planning and having an emergency plan in place before emergencies happen may be the difference between life and death.

A workplace emergency is defined as an unforeseen situation that threatens employees, customers, or the public and disrupts or shuts down your operations and causes physical or environmental damage. When developing an emergency action plan, you should plan for a range of emergency situations.

Emergencies may include:

  • Floods
  • Fires
  • Tornados
  • Hurricanes
  • Earthquakes
  • Toxic gas releases
  • Chemical spills
  • Explosions
  • Civil disturbances
  • Terrorist attacks
  • Workplace violence

What is an emergency action plan?
Emergency action plans are intended to facilitate and organize employer and worker actions during workplace emergencies. It is recommended that all employers have emergency action plans in place, and the plan should account for a wide range of emergency situations. In addition to developing an emergency action plan, you should train workers on their responsibilities of the plan.

Not all employers are required to establish emergency action plans but having these plans in place is a good way to help insure that workers and businesses are protected during an emergency. OSHA standards (29 CFR 1910.38(a) and (29 CFR 1926.35) require written EAPs. If fire extinguishers are required or provided in your workplace, and if anyone will be evacuating during a fire or other emergency, then OSHA standard (29 CFR 1910.157) requires you to have an emergency action plan.

Not sure if you need to have an emergency action plan in place? OSHA’s eTool can help.

What do I include in an emergency action plan?
Before putting your plan together, you should conduct a hazard assessment to determine what physical or chemical hazards are inside or outside of your workplace, and whether or not those could cause an emergency. Your plan should describe how workers should respond to a variety of emergencies and should take into account the layout, structural features, and emergency systems in the facility. Each site needs its own unique emergency action plan.

Emergency action plans should include:

  • Posting emergency numbers around the workplace, including the fire department, police department, and other emergency responders
  • Arranging training drills for first responders and facility staff to practice your emergency drills together
  • Designating a facility liaison to coordinate with emergency personnel and one or more emergency contact people that are knowledgeable of the facility’s hazards and emergency procedures
  • Maintaining an inventory of emergency equipment and supplies
  • Including a description of the alarm system in the emergency plan to be used to notify workers to evacuate or take other actions. Alarms should be distinctive and may include horn blasts, sirens, or public address systems
  • Storing original and duplicate copies of accounting records, legal documents, emergency contact lists, building plans, and other essential records at an off-site location

Training Your Workforce

  • Educate your workers about the type of emergencies that may occur and train them on the proper course of action
  • Ensure workers understand the emergency action plan including alarm systems, evacuation plans, and shutdown procedures
  • Discuss special onsite hazards including flammable materials, toxic chemicals, and radioactive sources
  • Identify and communicate to workers who will be in charge during an emergency
  • Review individual roles and responsibilities

By developing an emergency action plan and training all employees about how to properly execute the plan, you will take the necessary steps to help keep your workers and customers safe if an emergency situation should occur.

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