OSHA requires businesses to have emergency action plans. Let’s start by discussing what emergencies impact what portions of your EAP.
Fire – Most everyone has participated in a fire drill from their school days. The teacher directing us out of the classroom, down the hallway to the closest exit and then to an assembly area outside of the school. Most found it exhilarating, and a chance to take a break from the classroom. However, translate that to today’s workplace when the fire alarm goes off. Training to a site-specific location and making sure that all departments are accounted for is a primary ingredient of an emergency action plan.
Medical Emergency – It can be a medical emergency, cardiac arrest, respiratory arrest, or an employee becomes non-responsive. All of these, and many more examples, are medical emergencies and should activate the emergency action plan.
Explosions – Is there a potential from your operations that an explosion or a bomb threat could take place? Has an assessment been made, and what would you do in the event of an explosion or a potential explosion? Do you have a policy for an unknown parcel or package?
Hurricanes – They pack excessive wind, rain, storm surge, tornadoes, and only attack the southeastern United States. Think of Hurricane Agnes that decimated the Washington DC area, Maryland and Pennsylvania… and don’t forget Hurricane Sandy in the New York City area. With the advent of climate change, it is predicted by most climatologists that hurricanes will be increasing in severity and intensity.
Tornadoes – We mentioned tornadoes with hurricanes, but they can come almost with any cold or warm front, and are prevalent in the spring. However, they seemingly can happen at any time of the year, day or night. Do you have a tornado assembly area?
Toxic Materials Releases – Many businesses handle, use or generate hazardous materials regulated by OSHA, EPA and DOT. What do you do when, for example, a forklift accidentally drops and spills a 55-gallon drum of a toxic material? Do you activate your Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HazWOPER) team, and what about the affected employees what tasks do they take when this happens?
Radiological and Biological Incidents – Are radioactive and biological materials in your workplace, if so what would you do in the event of a spill of exposure? How would you know that you are exposed? Think Hazard Communication of HAZCOM.
Civil Disturbances – The news is full of residents reacting by taking to the streets to protest perceived injustice. If your business is near there, what actions would you take?
Workplace Violence – An incident can be internal or external. A fight between several employees, a human resources termination gone bad, a disgruntled employee seeking revenge, or a robbery. Can these actions affect your business? Have you had a security assessment? Do you have security cameras in place?
Active Shooter – This topic is the most newsworthy in recent years and is a form of workplace violence. Vigilance, observation and immediate notification of 911.
These examples listed above, are just an example that most businesses need to anticipate. How is the emergency action plan activated? What communication method is used to convey the activation of the emergency action plan? What are the duties of management and the incident commander?
As you can see, there are more questions than answers, there is no easy answer or fix, a good emergency action plan is a well thought out plan, updated at least annually, and is practiced and drilled frequently.