Key Elements In The Emergency Action Plan (EAP)
How would you escape from your workplace in an emergency? Do you know where all the exits are in case your first choice is too crowded? Are you sure the doors will be unlocked and the exit route, such as a hallway, will not be blocked during a fire, explosion, or other crisis? Knowing the answers to these questions could keep you safe during an emergency.
An emergency action plan (EAP) is a written document required by OSHA Standard 1910.38. An EAP aims to facilitate and organize employer and employee actions during workplace emergencies.
Well-developed emergency plans and proper employee training (such that employees understand their roles and responsibilities within the plan) will result in fewer and less severe employee injuries and less structural damage to the facility during emergencies. A poorly prepared plan likely will lead to a disorganized evacuation or emergency response, resulting in confusion, injury, and property damage.
Emergency action plans must be written. However, for smaller companies, the plan does not need to be written and may be communicated orally if there are 10 or fewer employees.
Key Elements In The Emergency Action Plan
At a minimum, the plan must include but is not limited to the following elements:
- Means of reporting fires and other emergencies,
- Evacuation procedures and emergency escape route assignments,
- Procedures for employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate,
- Accounting for all employees after an emergency evacuation has been completed,
- Rescue and medical duties for employees performing them, and
- Names or job titles of persons who can be contacted.
Although they are not specifically required by OSHA, employers may find it helpful to include the following in the EAP:
- A description of the alarm system to notify employees (including disabled employees) to evacuate and/or take other actions. The alarms used for different actions should be distinctive and might include horn blasts, sirens, or even public-address systems.
- The site of an alternative communications center is to be used in the event of a fire or explosion.
- A secure on- or offsite location to store originals or duplicate copies of accounting records, legal documents, your employees’ emergency contact lists, and other essential records.
Reporting Requirements Under The EAP
Employees must know how to report emergencies. Some use internal telephone numbers, intercom, or public-address systems to notify other employees. It is important for employees to also notify the proper authorities, such as fire, medical, or rescue services, if your company relies on this type of assistance during an emergency.
There are preferred procedures for reporting emergencies, such as dialing 911, an internal emergency number, or pulling a manual fire alarm, but there are many other possibilities.
- Dialing “911” is a standard method for reporting emergencies if external personnel is used at your workplace.
- Internal numbers may be used for reporting emergencies. If they are, they should be posted on or near each phone. Internal numbers sometimes are connected to intercom systems so that coded announcements may be made.
- Employees may be requested to activate manual pull stations or other alarm systems.
No matter what system is used, it is imperative that emergency situations be immediately reported. Fires and other emergency situations can reach dangerous in seconds, and any delay in getting emergency responders to the scene can result in additional loss of life and property.