Nobody likes to think bad things are going to happen. But they do, and businesses need to have a plan in place before they do. In fact, OSHA requires many businesses to have an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) in place for when emergencies and disasters strike. Even if this plan is not mandated by OSHA for your company, it is a good idea to have and EAP in place for the safety of your employees and your business.
Always, always keep personal safety in mind! Dial 911.
One of the things OSHA requires businesses to plan for is in case of fire breaking out. A well-developed EAP and proper employee training will result in less severe and fewer employee injuries as well as less structural damage to the workplace during emergencies. Not only must a plan be set in place, but employees must understand their roles and responsibilities included in that plan.
Creating a comprehensive EAP dealing with issues specific to your worksite is not difficult. The plan should address a wide variety of potential emergencies that may happen at your workplace. It should be specific to your work facility and include information about all potential emergency situations.
An EAP should include things such as:
A specific way to report fires and other emergencies
A policy and procedure for evacuation, including a way to account for everyone after an evacuation
Emergency escape procedures and route assignments, including floor plans and safe areas
A list of emergency contacts both inside and outside the company to call for additional information
If you have employees staying behind to perform emergency duties, a list of duties and who will be performing them
A plan to alert employees to evacuate, including how to help disabled workers get out of the building
When a plan calls for evacuation during an emergency, such as a fire, organization is key. A disorganized plan may cause injury, property damage and confusion. Things to consider when developing and EAP for evacuation include:
How to determine which conditions would cause a necessary evacuation
How to determine if conditions would be better suited for people to stay inside the building
A clear chain-of-command listing the person in charge who makes the decision whether to evacuate or not
Evacuation procedures including specifically marked routes and exits
Procedures detailing how to help visitors and employees to evacuate, especially those who do not speak English or who have a disability
A way to account for employees after an evacuation
A list of employees who will remain during an evacuation, and what they are expected to do while they remain in the building
To ensure an evacuation during an actual emergency goes as planned it’s also important to have practice runs, or fire drills. These would be where an actual fire alarm goes off and everyone is directed to leave the building and go to their designated meeting spot, or safe place. At this time, the designated person would take a head count, or roll call, to make sure all employees got out of the building safely and are accounted for. This fire drill should make a real evacuation much easier for everyone involved.
Once an EAP has been established, it is important that every employee has access to it and is trained on it on a regular basis. It’s also important to revisit the EAP on a regular basis to make sure it is still a viable plan that offers a safe outcome for all employees.