Preparing for Workplace Emergencies

Emergencies at work can happen without warning to the very best of us. A sudden calamity may catch you off guard, and it’s very easy for the situation to escalate as panic levels increase and more things go wrong. Grave emergencies arising from completely unexpected incidents such as the recent nuclear meltdown in Japan can be almost impossible to predict.

While we can’t control all factors that lead to a workplace emergency, we do have some control over the extent of damage that may result from a sudden emergency. You can minimize the damage by keeping your company and your employees well-prepared. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has an excellent manual on how to prepare for workplace emergencies that’ll get you started on the right path.

The following is a brief overview of some of the best practices featured in the manual:

Determine the Worst Case Scenarios. For a nuclear facility, a nuclear leak or meltdown may be considered as the worst thing that could happen in the workplace. A hydropower facility, on the other hand, would have a different set of worst-case scenarios – none of which would be related to nuclear radiation. Obviously, the differences in such worst-case scenarios would shape the preparations that need to be made. So before anything else, make sure you’ve got a clear picture of the worst case scenarios for your workplace.

Prepare an Emergency Action Plan (EAP).An Emergency Action Plan should be well designed and have a systematic protocol or set of procedures and instructions on what employees must do in response to specific emergencies and situations. It’s a good idea to assign employees with specific responsibilities that should be performed and executed in times of emergencies. Your EAP should also be accompanied by a graphical plan or blueprint on safe routes and emergency exits.

Keep Employees Well-Informed of EAP. Make sure that every single employee is familiar with the EAP and the procedures to be followed during specific emergency situations. Keep them updated of any changes in the action plan or safe exit routes, and perform regular emergency drills.

Keep Emergency Equipment Handy. The presence, availability, and functionality of emergency equipment and tools should be ensured at all times. Place emergency equipment in strategic locations where they can be conveniently accessed in times of emergency.

While the OSHA manual provides general guidelines on how to prepare for workplace emergencies, it does not address specific requirements of the OSHA standards or the Occupational Safety and Health Act. If you need help complying with state and federal regulations for workplace emergencies, you may find the following links helpful: