Is Your Company Ready for an Emergency?
One of the first steps in crafting an Emergency Response Program for your company is awareness. Consider what the potentials are within the workplace. Every company has the risk of fire, employee violence, and catastrophic weather incidents. For many areas, earthquakes also pose a unique threat that requires enhanced knowledge and training. In all events, preparation and planning remain crucial steps that minimize property damages, injuries and loss of life.
Workplace Emergency Preparedness Begins Here:
Risk Evaluation. Getting familiar with hazards is a three-fold process. First, consider regional and climate conditions, such as tornadoes, hurricanes, exposure to extreme elements, or earthquakes. What specific emergency events are present in your area? How is a severe weather situation or fire notified to workers? Are shelters and evacuation points established?
Evaluate other industries similar to your own. For example, if your company produces wooden furniture, what hazardous conditions have occurred in other woodworking industries? Are combustible dust factors that pose explosions an issue? You’ll find excellent resources from OSHA’s website by checking common industry hazards. Other helpful sources are trade publications and websites.
Conduct an onsite assessment. Look for security breaches, such as parking lots, foyers, or entry points. Check out storage and quantities of known flammables. Are there hazardous chemicals present in the workplace? Do employees work with electrical processes or machinery that poses a danger? A trained outside source’s assistance is beneficial. Risk analysts, local fire marshals, or qualified safety professionals can offer wisdom spotting potential hazards. Find a forum for employees to voice their safety concerns.
Written Programs and Policies: Once you identify hazards, begin documenting company policies and procedures according to OSHA’s Emergency Action Plan Standard, listed in the Code of Federal Regulations, (29 CFR 1910.38). Make sure you have a written Emergency Action Plan that lists employee first responders, emergency contact numbers, and how to handle any known potential crisis situations. Include fire and severe weather as well as site and region specific safety concerns.
Shelter and Meeting Areas: Designate storm shelter areas and meeting places for evacuations. Exit routes for evacuation should be at the minimum, 28” wide and are not in the proximity of flammables or hazardous chemicals. Map routes and post appropriate signage. Alarms that provide unique sounds for evacuation and seeking shelter are necessary. Fire alarms, paging systems, or air horns can be used in combination to prompt alerts.
Severe Weather Bulletins: Execute a system to receive severe weather bulletins. Battery backup weather radios placed in a well monitored location or cell phone alerts (provided cell reception is adequate) are excellent resources for this purpose.
Designate Company First Responders: Personnel from each shift need to be trained as first response leaders. These individuals should receive instruction in CPR, first aid and bloodborne pathogens, as well as any necessary site specific hazardous training. Plan annual re-certification for these life saving skills.
Practice Makes Perfect: Conduct a minimum of two drills a year (evacuation and seeking shelter). Aim for a three minute response time for employees to reach designated areas of shelter.
Fire Extinguishers: Keep fire extinguishers clearly marked and charged throughout the workplace. Base selection and distancing according to OSHA standards and local fire codes. Conduct annual trainings for all employees on fire safety and use of extinguishers.
First Aid & Bloodborne Pathogen Kits: Place well-stocked kits in readily accessible areas. Bandages, wound dressings, pain relievers, burn spray, and triple anti-biotic cream are essentials for all work places. Bloodborne Pathogen items such as bio-hazard bags, gloves and face shields are necessary to prevent transmission of disease during cleanup processes.
Evaluate: At least annually evaluate the emergency procedures. Update contact information if necessary. Check first responders’ certifications. Be vigilant keeping exit routes free of clutter and hazardous items. Make certain exit and fire extinguisher signage is correct. Emergency exits require lighted signs. Keep these in working condition.