Safety and health-related emergencies aren’t common in business. In fact, real emergency situations are quite rare. And while we can all breathe a sigh of relief in knowing this, that rarity also usually means that preparedness planning isn’t a focal point in your workplace. This article will provide businesses and field workers with tips for crafting an effective emergency plan; many of which can also be applied to your lives at home.
TIP 1: An Emergency Preparedness Plan (EPP) needs to have two important qualities — it must be executable and also a good training tool.
To execute a plan efficiently and successfully, it should be laid out in a manner that is easy to understand. It needs clear guidance specific to each emergency referenced with clearly marked sections; each with their own directions.
Developing the plan should be a team effort as shared work elevates overall plan awareness throughout your workforce. It also breeds familiarity with its contents. Annual training should be provided to each employee where they’ll obtain the most up-to-date version of the plan, as well as a refresher of their own specific roles/responsibilities within it.
TIP 2: Make sure your plan accounts for all of the major hazards that could impact worker safety.
A page that lists the hazards your plan accounts for should be included. Common emergencies referenced include fires, health, tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes, but there are many more that often get overlooked. Your response plan should cast a wider net to incorporate incidents involving robbery, sabotage, rioting, utility failures (i.e. sewer, power, telecommunications, etc.), extreme heat or cold, floods and biological hazards. The list of hazards will vary by location as hazards in one region can be quite different from another. See the toolbox talk at www.asa.net/Safety/Toolbox-Talks for a list of hazards that EPPs can account for.
TIP 3: Identify the employees and third parties that may be involved in an emergency response.
The first page of your EPP should list the emergency contacts at your facility. A page that lists the public emergency services (i.e. fire department, emergency medical, police, public health department, etc.) and contractor contacts is also required. A good EPP will also list those with AED/CPR/First Aid certifications, team leaders and helpers assigned to assist in evacuating personnel, employees with shelter-in-place assignments and any associates with other special safety skills (i.e. volunteer fire fighter, fire extinguisher training, hazmat certifications and EMT qualifications).
TIP 4: Procedures should be detailed, step-by-step and in chronological order.
This would seem pretty obvious, but it is a common misstep in plan development. Procedures are the heart of your training program, as all associates must know their role in a given hazard and how they interconnect with other personnel assisting with emergency response. An example of a fire evacuation procedure is provided in the above-mentioned toolbox talk at www.asa.net/Safety/Toolbox-Talks.
TIP 5: Practice repetition and elevation.
The more your team repeats the procedures and training for emergency response, the more comfortable and confident they will become in their skills, assignments and responsibilities. And as they elevate their performance, so too should their supervisor be elevating the content and expectations. Each repetition should inject something new into the process. For example, move from announced fire evacuation dates and times to unannounced drills or consider adding a post-drill activity to discuss business continuity in the event of full or partial facility loss. It is also a good idea to cross-train team members on various emergency responsibilities.
When the health and safety of your workers are in jeopardy, a trained and experienced team can make all the difference in the outcome.