Recent natural events have created havoc among a number of businesses of all types (including us here at Employers Resource). Hurricanes along the gulf coast and Puerto Rico, devastating wild fires in California and other northwestern states have brought destruction to thousands of homes and businesses alike. Even if a business in the affected area was spared, there likely has been a disruption of normal business activity.
Fortunately, most disasters of this type come with a relatively long lead time. Advances in hurricane forecasting for example allow business owners and the public ample time to prepare. Meteorologists are able to pinpoint landfall of a hurricane with great accuracy. Often two or three days notice can be given to areas in the path of the storm. Wildfires are not nearly as easy to forecast however, most folks get at least enough warning to grab what’s important when the notice to evacuate comes.
Disasters like fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, and floods are unforgiving for those who are unprepared. The “three P’s” of planning, preparation, and practice can help ensure you and your employees react appropriately to a pending destructive event.
When word comes that a disaster is imminent hopefully you have a procedure in place to shut down the business in an orderly fashion, preserve vital data and software, and protect trade secrets. That’s why it’s vital that your company has an Emergency Action Plan.
Don’t Get Caught Off-Guard
It is vital that you be prepared for a disaster before one strikes. In order to assess your preparedness, here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Does your business have a written Emergency Action Plan?
- Are all your employees familiar with their role in the plan?
- Is your plan updated whenever there are changes to your facility, production processes, or workforce?
- Do you conduct and document drills that point out successes and shortcomings in your Emergency Action Plan?
If you answered “no” to any of these questions chances are that your business will suffer far more in an emergency than those who answered “yes.”
OSHA urges all businesses to have a written Emergency Action Plan (EAP) that details action to be taken by managers, supervisors, and employees should an emergency situation arise. Small companies with fewer than ten employees can relate their EAP to employees orally. Larger companies must have it in writing.
In some cases, OSHA REQUIRES that a written Emergency Action Plan be in place and practiced. Failure to comply will certainly bring citations and possible fines.
Developing an Emergency Action Plan
While the process of developing an Emergency Action Plan is not difficult, it does require considerable thought (and time). OSHA says at the minimum, an Emergency Action Plan must contain:
- A procedure to be used in order to report a fire or other emergency. Remember to include training on who is authorized and when to call 9-1-1.
- A procedure for emergency evacuation of the facility, including exit route assignments for all employee work areas. A primary and a secondary route are required as part of the plan.
- A procedure for accounting for all employees after the evacuation. Having employees sign in when they reach the designated safe area is a good way to ensure that no one gets overlooked.
- Procedures for employees performing rescue or medical duties
- The name and job title of every employee who may be contacted by other employees who need additional information or assistance regarding the plan.
Your Emergency Action Plan must include an employee alarm tone, siren, bell, or other device that can be heard and recognized by employees. The sounding of the alarm signals the need to evacuate the facility and gather at the predetermined safe place.
The EAP must be reviewed with each employee covered under the plan. When a new hire is initially assigned to a position, the plan must be reviewed with particular attention paid to his role in the plan. You must also review the plan with all employees who change job responsibilities. Last, the plan must be reviewed with all employees whenever a change to the EAP is made.
We Can Help
Developing and implementing a written Emergency Action Plan is easier for large employers with many levels of management and supervision than for small employers whose employees wear many hats. A large employer can form a management committee to address the requirements of preparing the EAP while a small employer must add EAP preparation to the already huge list of duties he has on his plate. That’s where Employers Resource Managers can help.
Affiliating with a Professional Employer Organization like Employers Resource allows your business access to a team of safety professionals that can assist in developing and implementing your Emergency Action Plan.
Regardless of the size of your company, an Emergency Action Plan is useless unless it is practiced by all employees. Holding drills at least every six months is recommended. Sound the alarm, evacuate the facility, gather in the predetermined safe place, account for all employees, and then debrief the troops and critique the overall experience of the drill. Failure to document each practice session can cost your business should OSHA ask to see your Employee Safety Training Records.
Why not get in touch with Employers Resource today and find out how we can help?