As a safety manager, you know that it’s not a question of if, but when, a disaster will occur—and how large its impact will be. Depending on your location, you may be susceptible to hurricanes, tornadoes, floods and other natural disasters, as well as frequent power outages and fires. You can’t control these events, but you can control how you and your employees react. It’s not just a smart move to put a disaster prevention plan in place; it’s essential to morale, employee safety and harm reduction.
Not surprisingly, OSHA requires almost every business to create an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) to make sure employees can quickly exit their work sites. And, while OSHA’s guidelines are a good start, plenty of employers will need to go above and beyond to protect their workers, avoid financial loss and foster a true sense of security. To make sure your EAP is up to par, heed the following guidelines and best practices.
OSHA lays out some specific must-haves for every EAP. According to the agency, a comprehensive plan “involves taking what was learned from your workplace evaluation and describing how employees will respond to different types of emergencies, taking into account your specific work site layout, structural features, and emergency systems.” The minimums include:
- A means of reporting fires and other emergencies.
- Evacuation procedures and emergency escape routes.
- Procedures for employees who stay behind to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate.
- A system for accounting for employees following an emergency evacuation.
- Assigned rescue and medical duties for qualified personnel.
- Names or job titles of people to be contacted following the evacuation.
While they’re not required, OSHA also advises that the EAP should include a description of the emergency alarm system, a backup communications system and a secure location to store accounting records, legal documents, emergency contact lists and other essentials.
Those OSHA requirements leave plenty of decisions up to you. What kind of alarm system should you use? What are the best evacuation plans for your facilities? How should you and your employees report emergencies after the fact? The following best practices will help you answer those and other important questions.
Risk Analyses. You and your safety team should determine what emergencies will most likely occur in each facility and what amounts of damage they may cause. Include both natural and man-made incidents, and account for as many scenarios as possible to create thorough emergency and evacuation plans.
Alarms and Communication Systems. To communicate simply, effectively and quickly, use different alarms to indicate different emergencies. You might use one tone for tornadoes, another for fires and another still for flash floods.
Calling for Help. Ideally, your alarm system will automatically notify fire departments and other emergency personnel. If your system doesn’t have that capability—or in the event that system is compromised—it’s important to have several workers assigned to manually call for help.
Evacuation Plans. To keep evacuations fast, orderly and safe, you’ll need a rehearsed, well-thought-out plan. Important elements include:
- Clearly marked escape routes and exits.
- Secondary escape routes.
- Plans to assist guests and disabled workers.
- Designated safe areas.
- Methods for accounting for evacuated workers.
Threat Containment. Unfortunately, accidents aren’t your only cause for concern. The number of nationwide bomb threats has increased over the last few years, particularly at government facilities. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms offers the following recommendations.
- Watch out for suspicious packages and out-of-place items, and report them to a worker or administrator assigned to handle bomb threats.
- Contact law enforcement following any bomb threat.
- Evacuate the workplace immediately.
- Leave the search and investigation to law enforcement officials.
- Wait for an “all clear” from the police to re-enter the workplace.
If you follow all of these mandates and best practices, you’ll have quite a few procedures to track, update and relay to your workers. Fortunately, BasicSafe offers Policies and Procedures management software that allows you to store your safety procedures in one place that’s easily accessible to your employees. Contact us today to learn how it can make your workers safer.