Are you curious about what an emergency action plan is, why you should have one, or what it should include? We’ve laid out the details to help answer your questions and help set you up for success.
Unfortunately, it is extraordinarily challenging to prepare for emergencies since there are so many different types of hazards and unknowns. Your organization could benefit significantly from an emergency action plan so that you are better positioned to handle disasters when they arise.
Having an emergency action plan in place will help you protect your property. More critically, though, it can save lives and prevent life-altering injuries. Plus, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, requires a plan to be established at workplaces.
What is an Emergency Action Plan (EAP)?
An emergency action plan, or EAP, is a plan, often in the form of a written document, that details a workplace’s prepared response to an emergency. An EAP maintains compliance by meeting federal regulations from OSHA. (See 29 CFR 1910.38(a).) The EAP aims to improve disaster response by better organizing, coordinating, and streamlining employee and employer actions.
Emergency Action Plan Benefits: Why Should My Workplace Have One?
How does an emergency action plan benefit your workplace? In a word, preparation. Everyone knows that preparation is fundamental to taking the proper steps in urgent situations. Beyond the basic organizational principle of preparation, the various benefits of an EAP can be expressed by answering three questions:
- How does an emergency action plan benefit your workplace immediately?
The immediate benefits of an emergency action plan, which OSHA stresses must be supported by strong training, are the following:
- Communication — Everyone understands what they are expected to do if an emergency arises;
- Consistency — There is an established procedure that can be acknowledged organization-wide; and
- Compliance — 11+ employees: You need to have an emergency action plan in writing, and employees have the right to review it; 1-10 employees: The EAP can be communicated orally.
- How does an emergency action plan help if an emergency occurs in the workplace?
If an emergency unfolds and you have an EAP in place, you reap the rewards of a well-trained, thoughtful, integrated response (especially if your plan uses external specialist consultation):
- Minimized risk of employee injuries and lower chance of severe ones; and
- Minimized the risk that the facility will experience structural damage.
- How does an emergency action plan benefit your workplace more broadly?
Those above benefits are just the federal government’s explanation for why an EAP is essential. There are plenty of additional benefits beyond those straightforward ones:
- Enables B2B partnerships – Often, enterprises will want their suppliers to have emergency preparedness protocols in place. They do not want risk within their supply chain because that ultimately increases their own risk. Your competitor could get the business instead if you lack an EAP.
- Ensures that you retain your customers – If customers do not get their products or services when they want or need them, your competitor may get their business. A well-designed EAP prevents delays.
- Improves your communication procedure – When a disaster occurs, you need to limit the negative perception people might get about the incident. With a well-constructed EAP, you can keep stakeholders and clients informed about what is happening via clear contact procedures – even if a disaster has stopped your business or slowed its productivity.
- Helps you rely less on insurance – While insurance is important, it will not pay for everything you lose, including any customers who might depart. A strong EAP helps back up the partial protection you get from insurance.
- Helps you rely less on the government – Public relief is often not available to companies quickly enough following disasters because agencies are overwhelmed.
- Fortifies you against failure – Depending on the extent of a disaster, the organization’s response could determine its survival. In fact, some statistics suggest 2 in 5 businesses hit by disasters close. So, how does an emergency action plan benefit your workplace? Simply put, it can save lives and save the business itself.
How to Create an Emergency Action Plan
Constructing an emergency action plan is centrally about the elements at work in evacuations. The first step in brainstorming an EAP is to build out some of these elements as lists or notes:
- Chain of command
- Personal protective equipment (PPE) in place
- Exits and routes for employees and guests
- Parameters in which stay-in-place or evacuation orders should be issued
- Employees who will need to delay evacuating and handle critical shutdown operations.
What Does an Emergency Action Plan Include?
At the very least, per OSHA requirements, your EAP must include these elements:
- The job title and/or name of employees who understand the plan and can be contacted by those who want to better understand it;
- Procedures to report emergencies, including fires;
- Steps to be taken by any staff who, before evacuation, need to complete critical plant operations;
- Exit route assignments and procedures for different types of emergency evacuations;
- Medical and rescue steps to be taken by employees assigned those responsibilities; and
- What to do following the evacuation to account for personnel.
Training — In support of the EAP, you need to ensure safe and organized employee evacuation via training.
Emergency notification — Beyond what is included within the EAP, you must install an employee alarm system and properly maintain it. Each type of emergency must be designated a specific signal. (OSHA regulations provide additional requirements for this alarm system in § 1910.165.)
5 Emergency Action Plan Steps
Here are five emergency action plan steps to simplify your process:
Step 1 – Create an EAP construction team that allows for participation and communication by management and employees.
Step 2 – Reveal any hazards through a comprehensive risk assessment.
Step 3 – Determine the objectives for your EAP.
Step 4 – Lay everything out in a document in line with OSHA guidelines.
Step 5 – Form an additional team for on-site emergency response, the group that will spring into action during a disaster.
Review & Refine
Beyond ensuring your employees receive the appropriate emergency response training (including fire extinguisher use and first aid), you need to make sure people do not forget anything. Some experts recommend giving a refresher to employees annually.
It is necessary to review the plan with all employees in the following situations:
- the employee first starts a position;
- the plan is changed; or
- the employee’s emergency response duties change.
Do you need an OSHA emergency action plan for your business? At AOTC, we specialize in OSHA compliance service and training, identifying risks and providing a comprehensive plan. Contact us today to schedule your on-site safety training.