Workplace emergencies come in all shapes and sizes, including fires, explosions, floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, toxic material releases, radiological and biological accidents, civil disturbances, workplace violence, etc. All of which, according to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), require an emergency action plan.
Willfully violating that requirement and not having an emergency action plan that is current, well understood and accessible, could result in a fine of US$ 134,937 per violation.
Emergency Action Plan Checklist by OSHA
Considering that the Emergency Action Plan Checklist by OSHA consists of 21 items or categories, to be considered based on each potential emergency, that’s a lot of opportunities for something to get missed, a lot of ways someone could get hurt and for a violation to be considered willful!
In this article, we will explore the emergency action plans required by OSHA, the challenges with today’s methodologies and how they are exposing operations to increased safety and security risks. The goal is to provide you with the information necessary, to improve your emergency response plans and ultimately, help you save lives, money and time.
Emergency Action Plans
As OSHA says, the best way to prepare to respond to an emergency is before it happens
As OSHA says, the best way to prepare to respond to an emergency is before it happens. Few people can think clearly and logically in a crisis, so it is important to do so in advance, when you have the time to be thorough.
This is a discussion that is applicable to almost every business. According to OSHA, all workplaces with more than 10 employees are required to develop a written Emergency Action Plan (EAP), to identify and coordinate the necessary employer, and employee actions, during an emergency.
Key elements of an emergency action plan
An emergency action plan must be in writing, kept in the workplace and available to employees for review. At the time of publication of this article, at a minimum, the EAP must include these elements:
- Procedures for reporting a fire or other emergency.
- Procedures for emergency evacuation, including type of evacuation and exit route assignments.
- Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate.
- Procedures to account for all employees after evacuation.
- Procedures to be followed by employees performing rescue or medical duties.
- The name or job title of every employee who may be contacted by employees who need more information about the plan or an explanation of their duties under the plan.
- An employer must have and maintain an employee alarm system.
- An employer must designate and train employees to assist in a safe and orderly evacuation of other employees.
The employer must review the emergency action plan with each employee covered by the plan, including:
- When the plan is developed or the employee is assigned initially to a job,
- When the employee's responsibilities under the plan change, and
- When the plan is changed.
Emergency action plans should consider all emergencies
Emergency action planning is complicated, as it must consider the impact of all kinds of emergencies, all of which will have different implications on operations and the safety, and security team. They are detailed, as there are lots of moving parts and lots of things that will need to be completed in parallel, in order to minimize the impact on operations.
With the right team putting their heads together, doing the right research and considering all the possibilities, creating a document that outlines the job to be done, the order of operations, the list of contacts and steps to be taken, is not out of reach for anyone. What might be out of reach for many is thinking clearly and logically in a crisis, and making sure the action plan gets done right the first time, when it is actually needed.
The format, fundamental issue in emergency action plans
The fundamental issue with today’s emergency action plan is not the content, but the format
We believe the real issue or challenge is that for many, the emergency action plan is still just a document, often created and stored in a ‘red binder’ on someone’s desk. Therefore, the fundamental issue with today’s emergency action plan is not the content, but the format.
A great emergency action plan not only details the requirements, but also ensures that the right team members are executing the right plan, at the right time. It ensures important steps are not missed and that precious time is not lost searching for information. It also ensures that the emergency coordinator has access to current data, so they can accurately determine how best to proceed.
Need for data visibility
Limiting the emergency response team to a document, outlining procedures, is exposing operations and those on site to increased risk. While the data might be there, we have no visibility, no information. While the training might have been completed, there also might be a revolving door on the emergency response team, making it difficult to confirm who was trained on what procedures, and when?
In the event of an actual emergency, the action plan needs to be accessed by the coordinator and actions/responsibilities need to be verbally communicated, costing precious time, when seconds matter the most.
When the emergency responders arrive on-site, there is limited, if any visibility, on the status of executing the action plans, where team members are and their current status. Continuing to rely on these manual, paper-based and antiquated methods, is exposing operations to increased risk of injury and damages.
Digitally Transforming Emergency Action Plans!
It is our belief that it is time to digitally transform how we manage the emergency response team and action plans
It is our belief that it is time to digitally transform how we manage the emergency response team and action plans. Relying on the ways of yesterday, are no longer going to cut it and are actually exposing operations to more risk and cost than is necessary. Technology has evolved in ways that enable operations to cost effectively eliminate the fear, uncertainty and doubt in emergency response.
Today, we can automate all the EAPs, ensuring staff merely needs to start the plan and follow the work items identified in the plan. High risk work items can be prioritized, so as to help further reduce risk.
Real-time visibility of operations
Execution can automatically be captured and monitored giving ‘Command and Control’ real-time visibility of the teams’ actions. Data can be captured in a single system of record, so management can easily evaluate performance and identify areas for improvement.
It is time to take what was paper and digitally transform it, for a safer tomorrow!