“Ask yourself what you would do if the worst happened. What if a fire broke out in your boiler room? Or a hurricane hit your building head-on? Or a train carrying hazardous waste derailed while passing your loading dock? Once you have identified potential emergencies, consider how they would affect you and your workers and how you would respond.”
From here, you can start developing your emergency action plan. Although not every employer is required by law to have a plan, it’s a good idea for virtually every organization and facility.
The more comprehensive your plan, the better. Consider every element and step of your emergency response process—alerts, evacuation routes, medical assistance, rescue operations, and more—as well as what roles (e.g. evacuation wardens) your employees fulfill.
According to OSHA, every plan should include, at minimum…
- “A preferred method for reporting fires and other emergencies;
- An evacuation policy and procedure;
- Emergency escape procedures and route assignments, such as floor plans, workplace maps, and safe or refuge areas;
- Names, titles, departments, and telephone numbers of individuals both within and outside your company to contact for additional information or explanation of duties and responsibilities under the emergency plan;
- Procedures for employees who remain to perform or shut down critical plant operations, operate fire extinguishers, or perform other essential services that cannot be shut down for every emergency alarm before evacuating; and
- Rescue and medical duties for any workers designated to perform them.”
For OSHA’s full guide on emergency response plans, click here.
2. Maintain Proper Equipment and Certified Devices
Without functional equipment, an emergency response plan is little more than a packet of papers. Make sure to maintain all necessary emergency tools, gear, devices, controls, and systems, including the following:
- personal protective equipment (e.g. goggles, respirators, helmets, gloves, etc.)
- medical and first aid equipment
- alarms (e.g. fire alarms, carbon monoxide alarms, etc.)
- fire suppression systems (e.g. sprinklers, extinguishers, etc.)
All equipment and devices must meet OSHA standards and National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health certifications. For a searchable list of certified equipment, click here.
3. Create and Post Facility Evacuation Maps
Evacuations can prevent injuries and loss of life—or aggravate an already-chaotic situation. Make sure your workforce has the information they need to act quickly in a crisis. With clear, familiar evacuation maps, your workers can exit buildings in a speedy and orderly fashion, minimizing the chances of a stampede or blockage.
4. Train Your Workforce and Document Everything
Once again, training and documentation make a big difference in safety outcomes and EHS compliance. Train all employees on your organization’s emergency response procedures, including accident management, equipment handling, evacuation routes, and so forth. Keep training top-of-mind with periodic drills and refresher courses. Finally, be sure to maintain up-to-date and detailed training records, accident reports, and other related documentation—and keep all documents in an easily accessible location.
Your business is subject to many operational, regulatory, and compliance risks. This checklist itemizes some of the documents, training, and procedures that are required by many state and federal agencies. Can you check all the boxes?