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Workplace Emergency Action Plan

An emergency action plan outlines the actions employees should take in the event of a fire or other emergency. Well-developed plans and proper employee training may result in fewer and less severe injuries and less structural damage to the facility during emergencies.

What Should Be Included in an Emergency Action Plan?

Emergency action plans should include each of the following elements:

  • Preferred procedures for reporting emergencies
  • Description of alarm system used to notify employees
  • Evacuation policy, procedures and escape route assignments
  • Procedures for employees who remain on-site after alarm sounds
  • Procedures to account for employees after evacuation
  • Names and responsibilities of employees assigned to rescue and medical tasks
  • Description of how employees will be informed and trained on contents of the plan
  • Identification of employees to contact for additional information on the plan
  • List of key personnel to contact during off-hour emergencies

Prepare for Potential Emergencies and Disasters

Prior to developing a plan, your organization should determine what natural and man-made emergencies could occur in your facility. Information on naturally occurring disasters can be researched through city and county authorities, the National Weather Service and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Man-made emergencies will vary depending on your organization’s operations, but a partial list includes:

  • Chemical spills
  • Workplace violence
  • Bomb threats
  • Workplace accidents
  • Gas leaks
  • Arson

Officials with expertise in these types of emergencies should be invited into your facility to survey and make suggestions. To ensure a more complete emergency action plan, include employees in the planning process. Encourage them to offer suggestions about potential hazards, worst-case scenarios and proper emergency responses.

Remember, plans will vary by organization due to specific operations, reporting procedures and desired responses; however, all plans should, at a minimum, follow OSHA guidelines.

Report Emergencies Immediately

For your plan to be effective, employees must know the proper method for reporting emergencies. Some organizations use internal telephone numbers, intercoms or manual pull stations to notify employees. Regardless of which method your organization chooses, each employee should be trained on the importance of reporting emergencies immediately.

Maintain Workplace Emergency Alarm Systems

Usually once an emergency is reported, an alarm system notifies employees so they can perform their assigned duties. Alarms must be distinctive and recognizable by all employees, which may require both audio and visual annunciation.

Alarms must also be capable of being recognized above ambient noise and light levels. A sequence of horn blows or different types of alarms (bells, horns, etc.) can be used to signal different emergency situations.

According to OSHA, for companies with 10 or fewer employees, direct voice communication is an acceptable method for announcing an emergency, provided that all employees can hear the person speaking the warning.

Alarm systems should be tested for reliability and adequacy every two months and should be restored to normal operating condition after each test. Backup systems, such as telephones or employee messengers, should be provided and be on alert any time the primary alarm system is out of service.

Create a Workplace Evacuation Plan

Each emergency action plan should identify when and how employees are to respond to emergencies outlined in the plan. You may determine that your employees should assemble in one area of the workplace if threatened by a tornado, stay at their workstations and shelter in place for a chemical spill on an adjacent highway and evacuate to an exterior location in the event of a fire.

Most companies create evacuation maps with primary and secondary exit route assignments. These maps should include locations of exits, assembly points and equipment (fire extinguishers, first aid kits, spill kits, etc.) that may be needed in an emergency.

The NFPA 101® Life Safety Code requires that all exit routes be:

  • Unlikely to expose evacuating personnel to additional hazards
  • Clearly marked and well-lit
  • Wide enough to accommodate the number of people
  • Unobstructed and clear of debris at all times

Provide Emergency Preparedness Training for Employees

  • Before implementing the emergency action plan, employees should review the plan and understand their roles and required actions
  • Train enough employees to assist in the safe and orderly evacuation of personnel from the facility
  • Provide training to all new employees on parts of the plan that affect them, and refresher training to all employees annually

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