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Workplace Emergencies—Is Your Company Ready?

Everyone knows emergency preparedness is important, but often it falls to the bottom of the priority list as we juggle the many daily demands of business. An emergency can be an unexpected occurrence of varying degrees with the potential to impact business. If your workplace is like many others, you may not be as prepared as you would like. Setting aside time for planning and preparing for emergencies can save your company future time and frustration and prevent potential injuries.

What is a workplace emergency?

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a workplace emergency is a situation that threatens workers, customers, or the public and can disrupt or shut down operations. An emergency can also cause physical or environmental damage. Emergencies can occur naturally or be caused by humans and may include but are not limited to extreme weather, earthquakes, floods, fires, chemical spills, disease outbreaks, or civil unrest.

What’s required by employers?

Per OSHA, all employers need to have an emergency action plan that includes means of egress in the event of an emergency and safeguards designed to protect employees during the event. Some examples of safeguards include sprinkler systems, alarms, fire doors, and exit lighting. Employers must train all new employees on the plan when hired, anytime the plan changes, or when the employee’s role in the plan has changed (e.g., the employee is responsible for equipment shut down or assisting other employees during emergency egress). Depending on the industry and state requirements, employers may also need to add other elements into the plan, such as critical plant operation considerations, rescue duties, and emergency supplies for displaced workers.

Training for Emergencies

Emergency preparedness training gives employees the knowledge, skills, and abilities needed to perform key tasks in an emergency. Every employee needs to know the details of the emergency action plan, including how to safely exit the workplace, when to shelter in place, the types of alarms systems used, and if they have a role in any shutdown procedures. Employees need to know the potential emergency types they may face and any hazards such as flammable materials or toxic chemicals that they could be exposed to. Annual or bi-annual drills are also recommended for most industries and required for some based-on OSHA or state-plan requirements.

Where to Start Emergency Planning Tips

  • Assess risk and identify mitigation strategies
  • Designate an evacuation meeting spot away from hazards
  • Post emergency exit maps throughout the facility
  • Develop procedures to assist those who need help exiting the facility
  • Have staff trained in first aid and CPR
  • Encourage employees to build their own emergency kits
  • Create a business continuity plan in addition to an emergency action plan

Employers looking to create or update their emergency action plan can visit OSHA’s Emergency Preparedness & Response: Getting Started webpage or their state agency’s website for more information on what’s required for their industry.

Archbright members can also utilize the Emergency Preparedness Employer’s Guide, the Emergency Vulnerability Assessment tool, and a sample Emergency Action Plan, all located in the mozzo Resource Library.

For additional assistance or questions about your Emergency Action Plan, contact the Safety Hotline at 206.329.1120, 509.381.1635, or Taking even small steps now can help protect your workplace in the future.

Picture of Tiffany Knudsen

Tiffany Knudsen

Tiffany Knudsen is a Content Manager at Archbright, responsible for creating and reviewing all safety-related content. She joined Archbright in 2006 as a Safety & Loss Control Professional providing Archbright’s Retrospective Rating participants with financial analysis, workers’ compensation advice, and safety-related assistance. She teaches many safety-related classes, is a certified Instructor Trainer through Medic First Aid, and is the Medic First Aid Director for ASW. Tiffany is a certified Safety Management Specialist and has over twelve years of experience working as an EMT, Firefighter, and National EMT Instructor.