Given recent headlines, it’s hard to ignore the fact that disaster can and does strike businesses. Some, like hurricanes and floods, are acts of nature where no amount of prevention can circumvent their coming. There are extensive resources on helping your business become disaster resilient, some of which can be found at https://www.score.org/event/building-disaster-resiliency-advice-disaster-planning-recovery. The focus of this post is on protecting your employees from disaster.
Emergency Action Plan
OSHA specifies items that must be included in an emergency action plan for your company:
- A preferred method for reporting fires and other emergencies;
- An evacuation policy and procedure;
- Emergency escape procedures and route assignments, such as floor plans,workplace maps, and safe or refuge areas
- Names, titles, departments, and telephone numbers of individuals both within and outside your company to contact for additional information or explanation of duties and responsibilities under the emergency plan;
- Procedures for employees who remain to perform or shut down critical plant operations, operate fire extinguishers, or perform
other essential services that cannot be shut down for every emergency alarm before evacuating; and
- Rescue and medical duties for any workers designated to perform them
If you have multiple locations, each of them must have an emergency action plan. If your employee handbook does not include information like emergency exit procedures or shelter information, we can make it easy for you to update your handbook.
Emergency Notification Plan
Even the best plan is ineffective if your employees don’t know that an emergency is occurring, or is imminent. OSHA also prescribes requirements for notification:
- Make sure alarms are distinctive and recognized by all employees as a signal to evacuate the work area or perform actions identified in your plan;
- Make available an emergency communications system such as a public address system, portable radio unit, or other means to notify employees of the emergency and to contact local law enforcement, the fire department, and others; and
- Stipulate that alarms must be able to be heard, seen, or otherwise perceived by everyone in the workplace. You might want to
consider providing an auxiliary power supply in the event that electricity is shut off. (29 CFR 1910.165(b)(2) offers more
information on alarms.)
A well constructed disaster plan has many facets, including identification, notification, evacuation, medical resources, accounting for employees, and much more. Of course creating your plan for disasters and other emergencies is best done BEFORE an emergency is imminent. You can find specifics on OSHA’s requirements for comprehensive employee safety measures at https://www.osha.gov/Publications/osha3088.pdf
You may be thinking that your needs are simpler than all of this. The disaster planning process of an inland business that is rarely touched by earthquakes, hurricanes or brush fires is different from a business in an area that is flood or tornado prone. Take this opportunity to consider what emergencies are likely to arise in your business, and get your plans in place to keep your employees safe, and your business sustainable.