Preparation is critical to your business. While you certainly cannot plan for everything specifically, you can be ready for anything broadly. When it comes to protecting your workers and remaining OSHA compliant with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), you need to know what you will do in potentially dangerous worst-case scenarios. This forward-thinking is the realm of emergency preparedness and emergency response. With a specific emergency response plan, OSHA regulations can be addressed systematically.
Emergencies must be carefully considered because they present diverse hazards within your workplace. It is particularly important to know what you will do under the most difficult circumstances because you may need to move without stopping to think over your strategy. Strong emergency preparedness sets you up for the best emergency response so that everyone associated with your business has a safe place to go and access to protective equipment.
To make your employees aware of the risks they might face in emergencies, you need an emergency action plan (EAP). This document covers evacuation procedures, employee training, and other elements of preparedness and helps you avert or mitigate disasters when faced with unwelcome events.
Emergency Response Guide
In this emergency response guide, we cover the following topics:
- What Is A Workplace Emergency?
- What Is An Emergency Response Plan (EAP)?
- Small Business: The Oral Emergency Response Plan
- Why Is An Emergency Action Plan And Training Important?
- Emergency Response Plan: OSHA Requirements
- Emergency Response Plan: OSHA Recommendations
- EAP Checklist
- Refining Your Emergency Preparedness Plan
What Is A Workplace Emergency?
Emergency scenarios in the workplace fall into two basic categories, those generated by people and by the environment.
Types of emergencies resulting from people include:
- Trauma or injury caused by worksite violence;
- Civil unrest;
- Radiological accidents;
- Releases of toxic gas;
- Chemical spills; and
Environmental emergencies could be any natural disaster, such as the following:
- Hurricanes; and
How can you identify other kinds of workplace emergencies? These incidents are unanticipated events that cause any of the following problems:
- Interference with or disablement of your operations;
- Introduction of a threat posed to the public, your customers, or your personnel; and/ or
- Damage, whether bodily or to the natural environment.
What Is An Emergency Response Plan (EAP)?
An emergency action plan (EAP) is a written document that is intended to organize and support the actions you and your employees take during on-the-job emergencies.
According to federal regulations, an EAP is mandatory for OSHA compliance. However, those with small businesses may be able to simply talk with personnel about the plan rather than have it in writing (see the next section).
Small Business: The Oral Emergency Response Plan
The good news for small companies with up to ten (10) employees is that you are not legally required to create a written report. Instead, you can simply speak with your workers4 and let them know what to do when various emergency situations arise (covering the topics in the below checklist). It may make sense to write everything down for organization and consistency, but it is not mandatory that you have an official document.
Why Is An OSHA Emergency Action Plan And Training Important?
Simply put, a well-developed emergency preparedness plan can save lives and save your business.
If you either do not have a plan or have not developed it well, that can cause confusion. If people are unsure of what to do when you are more susceptible to injury, death, and property damage from a disorganized emergency response.
On the other hand, if your workers know what to do when any type of emergency occurs, you are less likely for people to get hurt and die; plus, you are less likely to see damage to your workplace.
An excellent plan is well-integrated with OSHA training. As with other safety and health information, it is important that everyone on your payroll gets thorough training so that everyone knows what is expected of them when unforeseen circumstances arise.
A comprehensive assessment of your workplace is essential to and a basic building block of OSHA emergency preparedness. Using what you glean from your evaluation, you are able to consider the characteristics of your unique setting – its emergency systems, structure, and layout – and understand what the employee response should be to any conceivable event. This information allows you to easily and straightforwardly develop and implement a customized emergency action plan.
Here is what you need to have in your EAP, per OSHA regulations:
- Reporting protocols for any emergency;
- Names and/or titles of individuals who should be alerted;
- Assignments of escape routes and step-by-step procedures for evacuation;
- Medical and rescue procedures to be used by appointed employees;
- Confirmation that all personnel are present following an evacuation; and
- Steps to be taken by those on your staff who will stay behind to complete critical work prior to evacuation.
First and foremost, you want to get buy-in from everyone. If some of your employees are not aligned with this effort, it can create weaknesses in your emergency preparedness. To create a plan that is widely acknowledged and accepted, OSHA suggests using a collaborative model.
Organize a committee of both employees and management to develop and launch your emergency response plan. Have this team get together on a regular basis to refine the plan and determine which parties will advance various aspects.
Second, there are additional components that you may want to include in your emergency response plan:
- Information regarding a different communications center that can be used if an explosion or fire occurs.
- Details about public address systems, sirens, horn blasts, and/or other aspects of your alarm system to be used in emergencies. These systems notify your workers that they need to evacuate or otherwise respond to an emergency. You want to have different sounds for each main type of emergency, so your employees quickly get signaled what is happening. These notifications should take special consideration of any disabled personnel.
- A safe and secure storage area (whether onsite or offsite) so that copies or originals of core records – legal paperwork, accounting documents, emergency contact information for employees, etc. – can be accessed regardless of the situation. (Offsite storage is preferable, so there is less of a threat to both sets of copies.)
For an effective emergency response plan, OSHA stresses the importance of trained personnel. It is also important that employees get training updates whenever the EAP is changed.
With this simple checklist, you can put together a plan that is aligned with OSHA compliance, and that will provide the most robust emergency preparedness:
Refining Your Emergency Preparedness Plan
Finally, it is critical to review and update your emergency response plan, not just when your environment changes but also at regular intervals. Pay special attention to the contact information – the most commonly outdated item, per OSHA.
For your emergency response plan, OSHA compliance efforts, and potential evacuations to be successful, occupational health and safety training is pivotal. At Alpha-Omega Training and Compliance (A-OTC), we assess your business needs and work with you to devise a customized program. Contact us to schedule your training and education courses today!