Emergency Evacuation Plans

Posted by Melissa Hall in #YHSafetyTips, Sep 04, 2019

If any emergency occurs at work and you need to evacuate the building do you know where to go?

OSHA Standard 1910.38 requires employers to have emergencyaction plans including procedures for “emergency evacuation, including type of evacuation and exit route assignments.”

When developing your evacuation plan, think about all possible emergency situations.

You should also determine the following items when developing your emergency evacuation plan.

Conditions where an evacuation will be necessary
These include natural or manmade emergencies including fires, floods, tornadoes, civil disturbances, workplace violence, radiological and biological accidents, and toxic material releases

Conditions where it may be better to shelter-in-place
Sometimes situations might arise where it is better to shelter-in-place. If you decide to shelter in place, there should be a designated location that includes an interior room with zero or few windows.

Clear chain of command including assigning one person to order evacuation or shutdown
You should designate a responsible individual to lead and coordinate your evacuation and all employees should be aware of who will be leading the plan

Evacuation procedures including routes and exits
Employers should create maps from floor diagrams that use arrows to designate the emergency route. These should indicate the location of the exits, assembly points, and emergency equipment including fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and spill kits.

Evaucation Plan

Procedures for assisting visitors and employees during evacuation, including those with disabilities and those that do not speak English
Wardens should be assigned to check offices, bathrooms, and other spaces before being the last person to evacuate an area. Wardens are also tasked with accounting for visitors and contractors who might be on site during the emergency evacuation.

Decide if any employees will remain after the alarm to shut down critical operations
There may be times when employees must remain behind to shut down equipment or processes before evacuating. If employees must stay behind, your plan must describe the procedures that should be follow by these employees after the emergency alarm is sounded.

How you will account for employees after evacuation
Finally, you’ll want to have a way to accurately account for your employees after evacuating the premise. Designated assembly areas should be noted in your evacuation plan, and a head count should be taken immediately after the evacuation is complete. There should also be a plan in place to evacuate further if the incident expands, including sending employees home or using transportation to move them to an offsite location.

Evaucation Door

Exit Routes

Exit routes are continuous and unobstructed paths of travel from any point within a workplace to a place of safety. All exit routes have three parts:

  • Exit Access – The portion of an exit route that leads to an exit
  • Exit – The portion of an exit route that is separated from other areas to provide a protected way of travel to the exit discharge
  • Exit Discharge – Part of the exit route that leads directly outside to a street, walkway, public way, or open space with access to the outside

All exit routes must be permanent and must be a permanent part of the workplace. The exit must be separated by fire resistant materials and openings into the exit must be limited. Exit doors must be unlocked from the inside and employees must be able to open the exit door from the inside at any time without keys, tools, or special knowledge.

Each building must have an adequate number of exit routes.

OSHA Standard 1910.36 states:

At least two exit routes must be available in a workplace to permit prompt evacuation of employees and other building occupants during an emergency, except as allowed in paragraph (b)(3) of this section. The exit routes must be located as far away as practical from each other so that if one exit route is blocked by fire or smoke, employees can evacuate using the second exit route. [29 CFR 1910.36(b)(1)]

More than two exit routes must be available in a workplace if the number of employees, the size of the building, its occupancy, or the arrangement of the workplace is such that all employees would not be able to evacuate safely during an emergency. [29 CFR 1910.36(b)(2)]

A single exit route is permitted where the number of employees, the size of the building, its occupancy, or the arrangement of the workplace is such that all employees would be able to evacuate safely during an emergency. [29 CFR 1910.36(b)(3)]

Taking the time to develop and train staff on evacuation plans now will help ensure you and your employees are prepared if an emergency occurs.

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