Why Do Emergency Procedures Need To Be Developed?
Emergencies and disasters can strike anywhere and at any time, bringing workplace injuries and illnesses with them. Employers and workers may be required to deal with an emergency when it is least expected, and proper planning before an emergency is necessary to respond effectively.
This webpage is designed to help workers and employers plan for that possibility. The best way to protect workers is to expect the unexpected and to carefully develop an emergency action plan to guide everyone in the workplace when immediate action is necessary. Planning in advance helps ensure everyone knows what to do in an emergency.
What is a workplace emergency?
A workplace emergency is a situation that threatens workers, customers, or the public, disrupts or shuts down operations, or causes physical or environmental damage. Emergencies may be natural or man-made and may include hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, wildfires, winter weather, chemical spills or releases, disease outbreaks, releases of biological agents, and explosions involving nuclear or radiological sources, and many other hazards. Many types of emergencies can be anticipated in the planning process, which can help employers and workers plan for other unpredictable situations.
The Emergency Preparedness and Response landing page provides a listing of all of the specific hazards for which the Agency currently has information on its website, as well as links to general emergency preparedness and response guidance.
What are OSHA’s requirements for emergencies?
Some key OSHA requirements for emergencies can be found in the following sections of standards for general industry (29 CFR 1910), construction (29 CFR 1926), and maritime (29 CFR 1915, 1917, and 1918). The table may not list all standards that apply to all situations.
Workplaces need a plan for emergencies that can have a wider impact. Special procedures are needed for emergencies such as serious injuries, explosions, floods, poisoning, electrocution, fire, the release of radioactivity, and chemical spills.
Quick and effective action may help to ease the situation and reduce the consequences. However, in emergencies, people are more likely to respond reliably if they:
- are well trained and competent
- take part in regular and realistic practice
- have clearly agreed, recorded, and rehearsed plans, actions, and responsibilities
Write an emergency plan if a major incident at your workplace could involve risks to the public, rescuing employees or
co-ordinating emergency services.
When you share your work with another employer, you should consider whether your emergency plans and procedures should be coordinated.
What is emergency planning?
Emergency planning is the course of action a company takes to minimize the effects of an incident or crisis. The main objective of emergency planning is to reduce injuries, protect the community and maintain business continuity.
An emergency plan usually includes necessary procedures during a crisis, a clear set of roles and responsibilities, and established instructions for local emergency response and recovery bodies. These are a crucial part of keeping staff safe.
Points to include in emergency procedures
- Consider what might happen and how the alarm will be raised. Don’t forget night and shift working, weekends and times when the premises are closed, eg, holidays
- Plan what to do, including how to call the emergency services. Help them by clearly marking your premises from the road. Consider drawing up a simple plan showing the location of hazardous items
- If you have 25 tonnes or more of dangerous substances, you must notify the fire and rescue service and put up warning signs
- Decide where to go to reach a place of safety or to get rescue equipment. You must provide suitable forms of emergency lighting
- You must make sure there are enough emergency exits for everyone to escape quickly and keep emergency doors and escape routes unobstructed and clearly marked
- Nominate competent people to take control (a competent person is someone with the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience to manage health and safety)
- Decide which other key people you need, such as a nominated incident controller, someone who can provide technical and other site-specific information if necessary, or first-aiders
- Plan essential actions such as emergency plant shutdown, isolation, or making processes safe. Clearly identify important items like shut-off valves and electrical isolators etc
- You must train everyone in emergency procedures. Don’t forget the needs of people with disabilities and vulnerable workers
- Work should not resume after an emergency if a serious danger remains. If you have any doubts, ask for assistance from the emergency services
The Importance of an Emergency Response Program
According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, “an emergency plan specifies procedures for handling sudden or unexpected situations. The objective is to be prepared to:
- Prevent fatalities and injuries.
- Reduce damage to buildings, stock, and equipment.
- Protect the environment and the community.
- Accelerate the resumption of normal operations.”
Since emergencies will occur, preplanning is essential. At the onset of an emergency, many decisions need to be made in a short time. Time and circumstance can mean the normal chain of command is not accessible. Added to that, the stress of the incident can result in poor judgment or extensive losses.
PREPARING YOUR STAFF BEFORE AN EMERGENCY HITS
Developing a program in advance, training everyone on the program, and continuously reviewing and revising it are integral to successfully managing an incident. Instilling a sense of confidence in your staff that they know how to react regardless of the situation is priceless when minutes count.
Aside from the obvious benefit of providing guidance during an emergency, the act of planning itself is a critical part of the program. The process can identify various deficiencies such as a lack of resources (equipment, trained personnel, supplies), or items that can be proactively resolved. In addition, an emergency plan promotes safety awareness and shows the organization’s commitment to the safety of workers.
BIG PICTURE AND SMALL DETAILS
Your emergency response program should look at both the big picture and the small details to determine the risks and hazards potential to your operations. A plan should be developed using available resources, trained personnel, and industry best practices keeping in mind the safety of people, the environment, property, and business continuity. Experts in writing Emergency Response Plans, such as Black Gold Emergency Planners, can be consulted to help develop a program for any industry.
I agree that protecting the environment should also be one of the priorities of emergency services. I recently moved to a new home so I’m still getting the hang of what to expect from the local services here. Knowing more about how prepared the public is for any kind of emergency would surely be reassuring.