Employers must identify the various types of emergencies that might occur in their companies and take the necessary steps to prepare for these events. Effective emergency preparedness and response can literally mean the difference between life and death for your workers—and between staying in business or not.
The first step is assessing your company’s emergency risk—that is, determining the kinds of emergencies your workplace may encounter and your ability to respond to such emergencies. You can then use the information from the assessment to develop an effective emergency plan (or improve your existing plan).
Assemble Emergency Planning Team
Start by assembling a team of workers and/or supervisors who represent the major departments or production units within the company. Your team should also include any dedicated safety employees and involve the participation of the safety committee.
Tip: Find out if anyone has emergency response experience, such as being a volunteer firefighter. These workers provide a wealth of resources and knowledge about emergency preparedness and response.
Create an Emergency Inventory
Once your team is assembled, begin creating a comprehensive list of all possible emergencies the company might face—an emergency inventory. Consider both internal and external sources of an emergency. Look at the last 5-10 years of emergency incidents. Don’t forget to consider what neighboring companies do and the hazards they expose your workplace to.
Next, assess the various emergencies in terms of their severity and probability. Ideally, you want to spend the most time on events:
That are the most likely to occur; or
Would have the most severe impact on your company and/or its workforce.
Now you’re ready to develop or revise a written plan that anticipates the potential emergencies that might occur, spells out the necessary steps to prevent them from happening in the first place and explains how to respond if they occur anyway. The major objectives of an emergency plan include:
Continuation of a healthy and safe work environment.
Minimal disruption to operations.
Resumption of critical operations as soon as possible.
Minimal financial loss.
Assurance to all stakeholders that the company is functional and operational.
Your emergency plan should address general issues about your company’s overall preparation and response and specific activities associated with each emergency identified.
It is important to be detailed in this section so that everyone understands what needs to be done in advance of and during an emergency. At a minimum, an effective emergency plan should cover:
Identification of potential emergencies;
Procedures for dealing with the identified emergencies;
Identification of, location of and operational procedures for emergency equipment;
Emergency response training requirements;
Location and use of emergency facilities;
Fire protection requirements;
Alarm and emergency communication requirements;
First aid services required;
Rescue and evacuation procedures; and Designated rescue and evacuation workers—that is, workers who are trained in emergency response appropriate to the workplace and the identified emergencies.
When developing your company’s emergency plan, make sure to consider the needs of any disabled workers in your workplace, including those with hearing, visual, mobility and other disabilities that may impair their ability to detect emergency alarms, evacuate and take other emergency response actions.
Everyone in your company should be trained on the emergency plan as soon as it’s finalized. They’ll also need refresher training at least once a year and every time the plan is changed. Emergency training must be incorporated into your existing new worker orientation program and you should also consider whether worker transfers to different departments creates the need for additional emergency training if their responsibilities and exposure to various emergencies change. Lastly, don’t forget to document the training – attendees, topics discussed, time, date, and instructor.