Have you ever thought about how your business would cope in an emergency? Many business owners either do not like to think about emergencies or feel the risk is not enough to spend time and resources planning for one.
A large-scale emergency could cause your business to grind to a halt, affecting your employees, customers, your equipment and even your premises. The implication could be reduced market share, long-term uncertainty or even failure.
The best way to reduce the impact of emergencies is to develop systems and devise a plan that your business can rely on in the event of unforeseen events.
The following are necessary steps required for planning for emergencies at the workplace.
- Develop a policy and procedures for responding to emergencies
Create a short, written policy that states the purpose of the plan and emphasises that you are committed to ensuring the safety of employees and others at your workplace.
Here’s an example: It is the policy of this organization to protect employees from physical harm, harassment, and intimidation. This organization is committed to an effective emergency plan that ensures the safety of all employees.
Procedures are instructions for accomplishing specific tasks. Procedures are important because they tell employees exactly what to do to stay safe during an emergency. Your plan should describe how you will:
- Report emergencies to local fire and police departments.
- Inform the emergency chain of command of an emergency.
- Warn employees about an emergency.
- Conduct an orderly, efficient workplace evacuation.
- Help employees with disabilities or limited English-speaking skills during an evacuation.
- Shut down critical equipment, operate fire extinguishers, and perform other essential services during an evacuation.
- Account for employees at a designated safe area after an evacuation.
- Perform rescue and first-aid activities that may be necessary during an emergency.
Other critical information
Include the following in your procedures:
- The names of the emergency scene commander, the emergency scene coordinators, and others responsible for carrying out the plan, and how to contact them during an emergency.
- The name of the person who has the authority to order a workplace evacuation (typically, the emergency scene commander).
- The names and phone numbers of those who understand the emergency plan and will inform others about it (typically, the emergency scene commander and the emergency scene coordinators).
- How to obtain critical information about the organization and its employees after an evacuation or when a disaster makes it impossible to return to the workplace.
- Planning considerations
Accounting for employees after an evacuation
Designate a meeting area away from the emergency site and ensure that employees know they must meet there after they evacuate the workplace. An emergency scene coordinator should take a roll call to identify employees not present.
- Alerting employees to an emergency
You can use a public address system, portable radio, alarm, or any other means that you know will warn everyone at your workplace. Alarms must be distinctive, recognized by all employees, and have a back-up power supply in case the primary power fails.
- Coordinating with multi-employer workplaces
If you share a building with other employers, consider working with them to develop a building-wide emergency plan. If a building-wide plan isn’t feasible, be sure that your plan doesn’t conflict with the plans of the other employers in the building.
- Developing quick-response teams
A quick-response team consists of volunteer employees trained to handle incidents that require immediate action such as medical emergencies, threatening or violent people, and hazardous substance releases. Consider the following in developing quick response teams:
- Incidents that require immediate action.
- Roles and responsibilities of team members.
- The team’s communication and response procedures.
- Educating employees about emergencies and evacuations
All employees should understand the key elements of your emergency plan, including:
- Roles of the emergency scene commander and coordinators.
- How to respond to threats and intimidation.
- Methods for warning employees of emergencies.
- Methods for contacting employees’ next of kin after an emergency.
- Procedures for summoning emergency responders.
- Location of evacuation areas.
- How to respond to an emergency and an order to evacuate.
Educate new employees about the emergency plan when you hire them. Keep all employees informed about any changes to the plan.
Train emergency scene coordinators in first aid and CPR, blood borne pathogen protection, and how to use rescue equipment.
Schedule drills so that employees can practice. Include outside fire and police departments in the drills when possible. Evaluate each drill and identify activities that need strengthening. Share the results with all employees.
When an emergency requires an evacuation, all employees must know to leave, what emergency exits to take, and where to meet. Employees may also need to know how to shut down critical equipment during an evacuation.
- Establishing evacuation exits
Your workplace should have a primary evacuation exit and an alternate exit. Post diagrams showing evacuation routes and exits. Make sure that all employees will see them. Identify the exits and the exit routes in your plan. Characteristics of exits:
- They are clearly marked, well lit, and visible under emergency conditions.
- They are wide enough to accommodate employees during an evacuation.
- They are unobstructed and clear of debris at all times.
- They are unlikely to expose employees to other hazards.