If you haven't created or thought about a plan for workplace emergencies and evacuations, now's the time to do so. While disasters, such as fires, floods, explosions and weather emergencies are rare, they do happen, and survivability is improved by being well prepared. Furthermore, by ensuring the occupants of your building are prepared to follow routine safety procedures during an emergency, you'll have fulfilled your legal obligations as the owner of your business.
Below are some pointers on planning for workplace emergencies and evacuations.
Types of Emergencies
Some types of emergencies that might beset your business include floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, fires, chemical spill or toxic gas, workplace violence and explosion. While your business might not be subject to all of these disasters, at least one or more could occur and be reason for an emergency lockdown or evacuation.
For most of us, it's hard to envision a fire, a flood or workplace violence in our building. Dealing with such an event can seem overwhelming, but discussing scenarios before they occur is just part of being prepared.
How to Plan
After envisioning the various scenarios that might afflict your business, decide if you want to involve other employees in planning, practice and implementation of emergency procedures. Then, you'll need to do a hazard assessment, and tailor your plan to your worksite.
Minimally, workplace emergencies and evacuations planning should include the following:
- Method for reporting fire or other emergencies
- Evacuation policy
- Escape plan procedure, including floor plans and safe areas
- Procedures for employees who remain behind to perform important functions (using fire extinguishers, shutting down equipment, etc.)
- Procedures for those involved in first aid and for those making sure the premises are clear
- Gathering place for employees to make sure all are accounted for
Part of your planning may also include ensuring copies of important records are stored offsite. If there are disabled people working on the premises, you should also provide for their safe evacuation.
Responding to an Emergency
Naturally, different types of emergencies call for different responses. You'll need to go over all of these plans with your team.
First and foremost, you'll need to make sure all of your employees are familiar with your building's floor plan. These key individuals should familiarize themselves with the plan, and know how to help employees evacuate. In multi-story buildings, a floor leader should be responsible for evacuation on each floor. Employees should be given the name of the floor leader and copies of the emergency plan. Employees should also be called together to go over procedures at least once annually.
It's important that with employee turnover, floor leaders are replaced, not overlooked, and new floor leaders are trained in their responsibilities. Depending on the size of your business, you might also consider appointing searchers, aides to help handicapped and non-English speakers, as well as elevator and stairwell monitors.
Other important safety tips to consider:
- Make sure employees are familiar with your building's alarm, and that when they sound, employees follow procedures. Alarms should be be in clear sight with an emergency power supply.
- Set up an emergency communications plan, perhaps involving a public address system, texting or portable radio, to communicate with employees or with emergency personnel.
- Determine, before an emergency occurs, what procedure will be followed. For instance, in the case of a fire, immediate evacuation is the best response, while with a toxic gas leak in a neighborhood building, it may not Your emergency team should be familiar with several scenarios, and be prepared to act.
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