Workplace emergencies are rarely anticipated. When they do happen, the first instinct for most people is to panic, causing them to not think quickly and clearly in the emergency situation. However, the initial minutes after an incident happens are incredibly crucial. Prevent panic on your job site by ensuring your workplace has a thorough, comprehensive emergency action plan that can be easily understood and followed by all employees.
Ready — a national campaign to educate and empower the American people to prepare for, respond to, and mitigate emergencies, including natural and man-made disasters — believes the first priority during an emergency is life safety. Next is ensuring the incident is stabilized. According to a 2017 Reuters article, the average wait time for help to arrive after a 9-1-1 call had been placed was anywhere from 8 to 30 minutes. These minutes are not only crucial in stabilizing the health of injured workers, but also stabilizing the incident itself. OSHA recommends all organizations have and routinely review and practice emergency action plans so employees throughout the job site know how to respond in an emergency situation.
What is an emergency action plan?
An emergency action plan designates actions employees should take to ensure complete site safety during an emergency situation. The plan should not only align with company, state, and industry policies, but should also align with each specific job site’s risk assessments and company performance objectives.
PLH Group is an energy-focused, full service power line construction, pipeline construction, and specialty contractor. Serving the electric power line, pipeline, oil field electrical and industrial markets, PLH Group and its 11 entities understand the importance of ensuring all employees know how to respond in an emergency situation, from first aid to site evacuations.
“Management and employees should be actively involved in the creation of emergency action plans, and all employees — both on and off site — should thoroughly understand their specific roles,” said Elsie Bentley, PLH Group’s vice president of Safety, Health, and Environmental. “All of PLH Group’s job sites routinely discuss emergency preparation during morning toolbox talks. Our safety managers ensure all workers know what to do in crucial emergency situations, such as locating the nearest hospital and how to transport workers if injured while working in remote locations.”
What should be included in an emergency action plan?
A disorganized evacuation can result in unnecessary confusion, as well as potential injury and property damage. Therefore, ensure emergency action plans are detailed, yet simple to follow. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends a minimum of the following included in an emergency action plan:
Preferred method for reporting emergency
Evacuation policy and procedure
Emergency escape procedures, routes, and assignments
Critical employees and community members to be immediately contacted (including contact information)
Employees and procedures to shut down or stabilize site operations prior to evacuating (as well as understanding when to abandon operations for personal safety)
Employees trained in rescue or medical response
Other considerations for emergency actions plans include:
Clear chain of command
Effective method of alerting employees
Simple and concise system for accounting for personnel following an evacuation
Easily identifiable evacuation routes (especially if experiencing loss of power)
Potential need for an alternate communication center
Designated employees to assist those with disabilities or language barriers
How should an emergency action plan be implemented?
Simply having an emergency action plan is not enough. Organizations must determine what type of additional training, if any, employees need to adequately fulfill the needs identified in the plan. This may include instructions for CPR certifications and emergency evacuation drills to emergency communication chain drills and site emergency shutdown procedures. Plans should also identify what emergency protective equipment and tools are needed on the job site, such as chemical suits, respirators, or detection devices.
The crucial need for an emergency action plan may not be evident until an emergency occurs. However, by that point, it is too late. Talk with your local OSHA representative if you have specific site, state, and industry questions, as well as needs with creating an effective emergency action plan. Do not wait until it is too late. Ensure all of your employees are prepared and protected.