According to OSHA, a workplace emergency is an unexpected situation that affects your employees and customers, affects your operations or causes physical or environmental damage. This can include floods, fires, workplace violence or civil disturbances. The best way to safeguard against these situations is to develop an emergency action plan. OSHA requires some businesses to have emergency action plans by law, but not all. However, even if you’re not required to do so, it never hurts to prepare.
Below are some of the points OSHA says your emergency action plan should include (you can find the complete list of recommendations on pages 2 and 3 here):
- An emergency policy and procedure;
- Emergency escape procedures and route assignments (Do departments evacuate to a certain place? Do floors evacuate to a certain place?);
- Names of people in charge of emergency procedures, both in and outside the company;
- Instructions for employees who remain on the premises during an emergency to perform essential services such as working fire extinguishers and shutting down workplace equipment;
- Outline of medical or rescue duties for any employee assigned to perform;
- A way to alert employees that an emergency is occurring and a way for employees to report emergencies.
Evacuation procedures should also be included in your emergency action plan. Below are some useful evacuation elements that every plan should have:
- Procedures for helping visitors, employees and people with disabilities off the premises;
- A way to account for employees after an evacuation;
- Conditions under which it may be better to stay in the building rather than evacuating (such as chemical contaminations);
- Which, if any, employees will stay after the evacuation to carry out essential operations;
- Respirators for employees.
Basically, leadership and planning are the main points you need to make sure emergency situations go as smoothly as they can and you can begin operating business as usual as soon as possible. The government has online tools in place to help you craft an emergency action plan if you never have before or if you want to review your current procedures.
Once you have your emergency action plan completed, share it with your employees and publish needed materials, such as escape routes, in common workplace areas.