OSHA strongly recommends that all businesses have an emergency action plan in place that covers procedures for evacuations and sheltering.
You and your employees need to know exactly what to do in any emergency, from fires and natural disasters to chemical spills.
Your plan should include these elements:
- A clear chain of command and designation of a person authorized to order an evacuation or shutdown.
- Specific evacuation procedures, including routes and exits (note that high-rise buildings require special procedures).
- Procedures for helping visitors and employees evacuate, particularly those with disabilities or who don’t speak English.
- Designation of evacuation wardens and monitors.
- Designation of employees who will remain after the alarm to shut down critical operations or perform other duties before evacuating.
- A means of accounting for employees after evacuation.
- Appropriate respirators, especially for employees with emergency response duties.
- Clear, detailed, and prominently placed escape route maps or diagrams.
- Co-ordination of your plan with other businesses, if any, in the same building or industrial complex.
- A schedule of evacuation drills at regular intervals (or on short notice).
- Compliance with both federal (OSHA, 29 CFR 1910.38) and state emergency action standards. Note that some states have stricter requirements than does OSHA.
Tailor evacuation plans to the nature of each emergency. Your plan should identify different emergency scenarios and describe employee responses to them. For example, if a tornado or chemical spill on a nearby highway threatens your workers, you might want them to assemble in one area inside the workplace On the other hand, if you’re facing a fire or chemical spill in the workplace, make immediate evacuation your top priority.
To help you determine what will be required, ask â€œwhat ifâ€� questions and brainstorm worst-case scenarios. What would happen if a storage area caught fire, your property was flooded, or a dangerous chemical was released? You and your employees need to know the answer to these questions and the appropriate response to take in each case.
For professional advice on developing and implementing your emergency action plan, please feel free to get in touch with us, that’s our job!