A simple "Emergency Action Plan" will work in offices, small retail shops, and small manufacturing settings where there are few or no hazardous materials or processes, and employees evacuate when alarms sound or when notified by public address systems. More complex plans may be required in workplaces containing hazardous materials or workplaces where employees fight fires, perform rescue and medical tasks, or delay evacuation after alarms sound to shut down critical equipment.
It is essential that the emergency action plan developed be site specific with respect to emergency conditions evaluated, evacuation policies and procedures, emergency reporting, and alarm systems. To assist you in your planning, take a look at this sample vulnerability analysis that will help you identify issues that must be considered when drafting a comprehensive emergency action plan. An explanation of each issue and/or examples of how each issue might be addressed in typical workplaces is provided.
The best emergency action plans include employees in the planning process, specify what employees should do during an emergency, and ensure that employees receive proper training for emergencies. When you include your employees in your planning, encourage them to offer suggestions about potential hazards, worst-case scenarios, and proper emergency responses.
During development and implementation of your draft plan, think about all possible emergency situations and evaluate your workplace to see if it complies with OSHA's emergency standards.
Common sources of emergencies identified in emergency action plans include - fires, explosions, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, toxic material releases, radiological and biological accidents, civil disturbances and workplace violence.
It's vitally important to conduct a hazard assessment of the workplace to identify any physical or chemical hazards that may exist and could cause an emergency. Be sure to consider the impact of these internal and external emergencies on the workplace's operations. Get together and brainstorm the worst case scenarios asking yourself what you would do and what would be the likely impact on your operation and device appropriate responses.
Make sure you have a list of key personnel with contact information as well as contact information for local emergency responders, agencies and contractors. Keep your list of key contacts current and make provisions for an emergency communications system such as a cellular phone, a portable radio unit, or other means so that contact with local law enforcement, the fire department, and others can be swift.
Also make sure the plan contains a list of the names, titles, departments, and telephone numbers of individuals to contact for additional information or an explanation of duties and responsibilities under the plan.
Unless you are a large employer handling hazardous materials and processes or have employees regularly working in hazardous situations, you will probably choose to rely on local public resources, such as the fire department, who are trained, equipped, and certified to conduct rescues. Make sure any external department or agency identified in your plan is prepared to respond as outlined in your plan. Untrained individuals may endanger themselves and those they are trying to rescue.
Most small employers do not have a formal internal medical program and make arrangements with medical clinics or facilities close by to handle emergency cases and provide medical and first-aid services to their employees. If an infirmary, clinic, or hospital is not close to your workplace, ensure that onsite person(s) have adequate training in first aid.
The American Red Cross, some insurance providers, local safety councils, fire departments, or other resources may be able to provide this training. Treatment of a serious injury should begin within 3 to 4 minutes of the accident. Consult with a physician to order appropriate first-aid supplies for emergencies. Establish a relationship with a local ambulance service so transportation is readily available for emergencies.
Don't forget, if a real catastrophe like a major earthquake or hurricane occurs, local rescue services or government will probably not be able to come to the rescue. You'll be on your own for a number of days or weeks (remember Katrina?). Make sure that you plan for the worst case scenario and assume no outside help.
In the event of an emergency, it could be important to have ready access to important personal information about your employees. This includes their home telephone numbers, the names and telephone numbers of their next of kin, and medical information.
Dialing 911 is a common method for reporting emergencies if external responders are utilized. Internal numbers may be used. Internal numbers are sometimes connected to intercom systems so that coded announcements may be made. In some cases, employees are requested to activate manual pull stations or other alarm systems.
Make sure alarms are distinctive and recognized by all employees as a signal to evacuate the work area or perform other actions identified in your plan. Sequences of horn blows or different types of alarms (bells, horns, etc.) can be used to signal different responses or actions from employees.
Consider making available an emergency communications system, such as a public address system, for broadcasting emergency information to employees. Ideally alarms will be able to be heard, seen, or otherwise perceived by everyone in the workplace including those that may be blind or deaf. Otherwise floor wardens or others must be tasked with ensuring all employees are notified. You may want to consider providing an auxiliary power supply in the event of an electrical failure.
Training should be offered employees when you develop your initial plan and when new employees are hired. Employees should be trained or retrained as required when your plan changes due to a change in the layout or design of the facility, when new equipment, hazardous materials, or processes are introduced that affect evacuation routes, or when new types of hazards are introduced that require special actions.
General training for your employees should address the following:
You may also need to provide additional training to your employees (i.e. first-aid procedures, portable fire extinguisher use, etc.) depending on the responsibilities allocated to employees in your plan.
If training is not reinforced, it will be forgotten. Consider retraining employees annually.
Once you have reviewed your emergency action plan with your employees and everyone has had the proper training, it is a good idea to hold practice drills as often as necessary to keep employees prepared. Include outside resources such as fire and police departments when possible. After each drill, gather management and employees to evaluate the effectiveness of the drill. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of your plan and work to improve it.
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