Does Your Company Have an Emergency Action Plan?
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Emergency Action Plan
OSHA strongly recommends that all employers have an emergency action plan. If the public entity has 10 or fewer employees, the plan may be communicated orally. Other employees must have a written plan, kept in the workplace and available for employees to review.
OSHA standards that require emergency action plans are:
- Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals – 1910.119
- Fixed Extinguishing Systems, General – 1910.160
- Fire Detection Systems – 1910.164
- Grain Handling – 1910.272
- Ethylene Oxide – 1910.1047
- Methylenedianiline – 1910.1050
- 1,3-Butadiene – 1910.1051
The plan describes the actions employees should take to ensure their safety if a fire or other emergency situation occurs. To be effective, employees must understand their roles and responsibilities when an emergency occurs. The public entity should run emergency preparedness drills to give employees the experience of putting their knowledge to work before an actual emergency occurs. Once a quarter is not too frequent to test the plan. Many entities participate in citywide or countywide emergency preparedness drills that involve hospitals, fire, police, etc.
A comprehensive plan comprises issues specific to the entity’s worksite. It describes how employees will respond to different types of emergencies considering the specific worksite layout, structural features and emergency systems. Since the participation of all employees is critical to the plan’s success in an emergency, it is wise to ask for their help in constructing the plan.
- Emergency reporting procedures
- Alarm system description
- Evacuation policy
- Exit maps or diagrams
- Procedures for sheltering in place
- Procedures for people who remain in place
- Procedures for accounting for all personnel
- Rescue and medical tasks
- Emergency communications plan
- Emergency plan training
Emergency reporting procedures
No matter what system is used, it is very important that emergencies be reported promptly to an internal or external phone number. In some cases, employees are requested to activate manual pull stations or other alarm systems. If internal numbers are used for reporting emergencies, they should be posted on, or near, each phone. If external emergency personnel are used, the number is 9-1-1 or in some communities 3-1-1.
Alarm system description
Once an emergency that requires a response from employees is reported, a system—typically an alarm system—must be in place to notify employees. Alarms must be:
- distinctive and recognized by all employees as a signal to evacuate the work area or perform other actions identified in the entity’s emergency action plan.
- capable of being perceived above ambient noise and light levels.
- Sequences of horn blows or different types of alarms (bells, horns, etc.) can be used to signal different responses or actions from employees.
- Ideally, alarms will be able to be heard, seen, or otherwise perceived by everyone in the workplace including those who may be blind or deaf.
- An auxiliary power supply will ensure the alarm system works in the event of an electrical failure.
To learn more about OSHA requirements for alarm systems go to OSHA’s Workplace Evaluation—Alarm System
Here is a sample policy.
- In the event of fire or other emergency, ALL employees shall evacuate immediately.
- In the event of an emergency, employees shall evacuate by means of the nearest available marked exit.
- In the event of a fire, the following individuals are authorized to use portable fire extinguishers to attempt to extinguish fires before evacuating:
- In the event of an emergency, the following employees are to remain in the workplace to shutdown or monitor critical operations before they evacuate:
- The following employees are to perform rescue or medical duties during an emergency:
- After an emergency evacuation, employees are to gather in the following location(s):
- After an emergency evacuation, the procedure for accounting for all employees is:
- For further assistance with emergency evacuation procedures, the following individuals may be contacted:
Exit maps or diagrams
- Designate primary and secondary exits.
- No emergency exits in restrooms.
- Exit away from rooms with hazardous materials.
- No emergency exits in narrow (less than 28 inches) passages.
- Exit signs indicating nearest emergency exit.
- Designate an assembly area.
- No use of elevators to reach emergency exit.
- Indicate exits with wheelchair access.
- Indicate employee’s current location.
Procedures for sheltering in place
Select an interior room or rooms within the entity, or rooms with no or few windows, and have employees take refuge there. In many cases, local authorities will issue advice to shelter-in-place via TV or radio. Procedures for sheltering in place can be found at OSHA site
Procedures for people who remain in place
- Implement a means of alerting your employees to shelter-in-place that is easily distinguishable from that used to signal an evacuation.
- Train employees in the shelter-in-place procedures and their roles in implementing them.
Procedures for accounting for all personnel
Accounting for all employees following an evacuation is critical. Confusion in the assembly areas can lead to delays in rescuing anyone trapped in the building, or unnecessary and dangerous search-and-rescue operations. To ensure the fastest, most accurate accountability of the entity’s employees, consider including these steps in the entity’s emergency action plan:
- Designate assembly areas where employees should gather after evacuating;
- Take a head count after the evacuation. Identify the names and last known locations of anyone not accounted for and pass them to the official in charge;
- Establish a method for accounting for non-employees such as suppliers and customers, and employees after an evacuation?
- Establish procedures for further evacuation in case the incident expands. This may consist of sending employees home by normal means or providing them with transportation to an offsite location.
Rescue and medical tasks
The entity may decide that no employee will have rescue or medical tasks assigned to them. One rescue task would be to assist any medically incapacitated or disabled employees from the building. You should designate a primary team and a backup team to accomplish this. Or specific employees who have been trained to use portable fire extinguishers, may stay behind to try to diminish a fire before leaving the building. See OSHA’s Using Public Resources for more information.
Emergency communications plan
In addition to the alarm system mentioned previously, the entity may want to make available an emergency communications system, such as a public address system, for broadcasting emergency information to employees. There should be an up-to-date list of employees with emergency contact numbers and names. There should also be a current list of VIPs who should be apprised of the situation and what action has been taken. Some examples are: the mayor, city manager, city council, school board, governor.
Emergency plan training
Educate employees about emergencies that might occur and train them in the proper course of action. The size of the entity’s workplace and workforce, processes used, materials handled, and the availability of onsite or outside resources will determine the entity’s training requirements. Be sure all employees understand the function and elements of the entity’s emergency action plan, including:
- types of potential emergencies,
- reporting procedures,
- alarm systems,
- evacuation plans, and
- shutdown procedures.
Discuss any special hazards the entity may have onsite such as flammable materials, toxic chemicals, radioactive sources, or water-reactive substances. Clearly communicate to employees who will be in charge during an emergency to minimize confusion.
General training for your employees should address the following:
- Individual roles and responsibilities;
- Threats, hazards, and protective actions;
- Notification, warning, and communications procedures;
- Means for locating family members in an emergency;
- Emergency response procedures;
- Evacuation, shelter, and accountability procedures;
- Location and use of common emergency equipment; and
- Emergency shutdown procedures.
The entity also may wish to train employees in first-aid procedures, including protection against bloodborne pathogens; respiratory protection, including use of an escape-only respirator; and methods for preventing unauthorized access to the site.
Once the entity has reviewed its emergency action plan with 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.
Schedule training when:
- Develop the entity’s initial plan;
- Hire new employees;
- Introduce new equipment, materials, or processes into the workplace that affect evacuation routes;
- Change the layout or design of the facility; and
- Revise or update the entity’s emergency procedures.
original article source: “Emergency Action Plan” nonprofitrisk.org, Workplace Safety Toolkit, Web. May. 17th, 2018.