The safety of workers should be a high priority for any employer. OSHA regulates workplace safety for businesses in the U.S. by providing guidelines for employers and employees. Workplace hazards vary depending on the operations that take place in a particular setting. The threats that chemical factory workers have to deal what are not the same as those in an office building. However, the need for an OSHA emergency action plan in the event of an emergency applies to all settings.
Emergencies such as fire or chemical spills can cause physical injuries and financial losses in large magnitudes. Instituting an action plan that employees can adhere to during such incidents minimizes the risks of damages. Not every employer, however, can come up with a workable OSHA emergency action plan, so a little help goes a long way.
What Is an OSHA Emergency Action Plan?
An EAP is an OSHA mandated written document that outlines the actions of workers during an emergency. However, an entity with less than ten workers does not have to write down its EAP. When unexpected incidents occur at the workplace, employees may not know the proper way to respond, and that can increase the risks of injuries and property damage. Companies should invest time in creating an OSHA emergency action plan and teaching it to employees. In certain emergencies like fires, individuals must know the specific procedures to follow.
Knowing how to use equipment such as fire extinguishers is also fundamental. An emergency action plan addresses all these elements. Preparedness for emergencies makes work less challenging for first responders and law enforcement officers. When individuals know how to evacuate from a burning building or clean up after a chemical spill, emergency services have an easier time coordination response activities.
The lack of an OSHA emergency action plan or a poorly organized one is reason enough for a workplace accident to get out of hand. There can be great confusion when workers don’t even know how to operate emergency exits. A comprehensive EAP should be based on the safety evaluations you have already conducted for your organization.
6 Tips for Creating an EAP
OSHA Minimum Requirements
Deciding what to include in your OSHA emergency action plan can be a bit daunting, especially when it’s the first time you are drawing up the document. You can begin with some basics, though. An emergency action plan should contain at least the minimum requirements put in place by OSHA. These are:
- Reporting emergencies – the action plan should detail the different processes to follow in case of certain emergencies like calling the fire department or pulling the fire alarm.
- How occupants will evacuate including the escape routes- in the event of an incident, your EAP should outline which paths people are supposed to follow when leaving. Exit diagrams are useful in this instance.
- Processes for employees who have to remain for critical plant operations- if there are devices that can aggravate the situation, some employees may be required to stay behind to shut them down. Highlight how they should proceed.
- Taking count after an evacuation – you have to ensure that every worker is accounted for in an orderly fashion. The procedure may include taking a roll call.
- Proper procedures for workers who have to give medical attention- OSHA stipulates at least one worker should have first aid training.
- The contact information of employees with more information- in instances where people need clarification, they should know which employees to turn to.
Evacuation of the Disabled
When drawing up your OSHA emergency action plan, factor in the evacuation of disabled persons. You can have one area where people with disabilities can gather in emergency cases. Of course, this section should be physically accessible to different types of disabilities. Your EAP also includes how you train workers with disabilities to respond to emergency situations.
Shut Down Protocols
The machinery in your workplace can pose certain risks during emergency situations. During floods, for instance, all electrical equipment should be off. Workers should know how to switch off devices correctly. The plan should name the employees with this responsibility. If training is necessary, then the OSHA emergency action plan should state that as well. List the locations of every utility shut off so that the persons responsible for the processes will not have trouble finding them.
Employee Communication System
In emergencies, workers should be able to communicate effectively even when in different parts of the building. Every worker has to be aware of this warning system. Ensure that you have a special communication signal for the visually or hearing impaired. If some of your workers don’t understand English very well, then make certain the communication system accounts for their needs.
Presence and Maintenance of Alarm Systems
OSHA requires workplaces to have proper alarm systems. It is advisable to install different systems for specific circumstances. For instance, in the event of a chemical or biological contamination, an alarm can trigger a sprinkler system where employees can wash off in an instant. In situations where an emergency needs containing, an alarm can initiate a lockdown. Your OSHA emergency action plan should outline how each of these alarms responds so that people know what means what. For instance, a fire alarm can have a siren and a blare for flood detection.
Laying out the necessary procedures during an emergency is not enough; workers should know how to execute them. Select several of your employees who will undergo training according to the action plan. Have some people who know how to carry out emergency medical aid. Pick some workers to learn how to deal with violence during emergencies. Trained workers are valuable assets in such situations because they know which steps to follow to get everyone to safety. Drills are useful in educating employees on how to respond to emergencies.
An emergency action plan is an essential document for any company. A myriad of variables will determine how detailed it has to be. The type of operations, number of employees, and proximity to emergency services are just a few. Once you have drawn up the EAP, store it in different formats. In case your electronic copies are not available, workers should have hard copies. The various departments in your organization should also go through the EAP to gauge its feasibility. Do you have an OSHA emergency action plan? What makes it effective?