As the old saying goes – stuff happens. While we would all like to think of ourselves and our practices as indestructible, the only way to protect yourself from a workplace emergency is to be prepared. Below are instructions taken from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration on how to plan for workplace emergencies and evacuations.
The Most Common Emergencies
A workplace emergency is any unforeseen and unexpected situation that threatens either your employees, your customers or the public. The most common emergencies include:
- Toxic gas releases
- Chemical spills
- Radiological accidents
- Civil disturbances
Identify Potential Problems
In order to make an emergency action plan, you first need to brainstorm what events could occur. Do you live in a part of the country that is prone to floods? What about hurricanes, tornadoes or ice storms? You will also need to complete a hazard assessment of all of your worksites in order to determine what could go wrong; this includes identifying things like fire and chemical hazards. Once you have identified potential emergencies, you can then begin to plan for them.
Draft a Plan
An emergency action plan contains the actions employees and employers need to take in the case of an emergency to ensure everyone’s safety. It may be beneficial to include your management team as well as some employees in the planning phase.
Your plan should include the following information:
- A preferred method for reporting fires and other emergencies.
- An evacuation procedure and policy.
- Emergency escape procedures and route assignments; this should include floor plans, workplace maps and safe areas.
- The names, titles, departments and telephone numbers of individuals both within and outside of your organization that employees can contact for additional information about the plan.
- Procedures for employees who remain behind during an emergency to perform critical operations, such as operating the fire extinguisher.
- Rescue or medical duties for any workers designated to perform them.
- A designated assembly location and a method to account for all employees after an evacuation.
You should also plan how to alert employees to an emergency. This may include
- Making sure the alarms are distinctive and recognizable to all employees as a signal to evacuate the work area and perform the actions identified in the plan.
- Make an emergency communication system available, such as a public address system.
- Make sure alarms are able to be seen, heard or otherwise perceived by everyone in the workplace.
And don’t forget to practice the plan! Once all your employees have had time to review it, plan a few scheduled and unscheduled drills just to make sure they know what they need to do to stay safe.