Emergency Action Plan in Your Workplace – What Protection Does It Really Provide?
The US Department of Labor has a division called Occupational Safety and Health Administration, otherwise known as OSHA. I’m sure you’ve heard of it!
OSHA deals with a wide variety of employment issues, including protecting privacy, procedures for non-discrimination and retaliation, etc. OSHA also sets standards for safety, including requirements for Emergency Action Plans. Does your workplace have a Plan? Is it working for you? Here’s an overview to start the conversation . . .
Who needs an Emergency Action Plan?
Just about every business. Take a look around your workplace. Do you see any fire extinguishers? If there were a fire, would you and co-workers need to evacuate the premises? These are the two key questions, so if you answer “Yes” to either one, you need to have an Emergency Action Plan!
What are the requirements for a Plan?
- It must be in writing.
- It must be kept in the workplace.
- It must be available to employees for review. (An employer with 10 or fewer employees may simply announce the plan contents in a staff meeting or otherwise orally.)
What does the plan contain?
- Information about how to report a fire or other emergency (Public address system? Call 911? Pull fire alarm?)
- Evacuation procedures and identification of escape routes (Nearest exit? Maps or diagrams?)
- Location of fire extinguishers and who is authorized to use them (Not everyone?)
- Critical steps to be taken before the workplace is emptied (Shut down equipment? Close doors? Do nothing, just get out?)
- Procedures for keeping track of all employees after an evacuation (Where are records?)
- Rescue and medical duties for those employees who are to perform them
- Who to contact for more information
How often does the plan have to be updated, or shared with employees?
Clearly, a number of plan items need to be regularly updated, such as the list of employees and the list of employees with special emergency skills or who require special training. There doesn’t seem to be a requirement to revise the plan on any regular basis, or to actually practice it. The plan must be shared with all employees covered by it, however, including new employees.
What if we should have a plan, but don’t?
OSHA provides an on-line eTool that you can use to create a basic plan. Just fill in the blanks and print it out. (Note that the material is NOT SAVED if you stop in the middle, so you need to complete all sections in one sitting.) You will discover that the questions, while simple, will force you to make some important distinctions about employee behavior in an emergency. You can find the eTool at:
What’s the bottom line?
An Emergency Action Plan is really only a FIRE EVACUATION PLAN.
It is not an emergency preparedness plan or a disaster response plan. It has no provisions for assembling emergency supplies to protect employees or plans to protect the business itself in the event of a disaster. Still, it is a first step to survival awareness.
Action Item: Be sure your workplace has an Emergency Action Plan as a bare minimum
Stay tuned to Emergency Plan Guide Advisories, because we’ll be dealing in more detail on Business Continuity planning.
Virginia and Joe
Your Emergency Plan Guide Team