Emergency Action Plans and Why Your Facility Needs One
It’s time for another Spotlight on Safety, where we like to explore safety concerns and best practices for warehouses and manufacturing facilities. Usually, we focus on awareness and hazard prevention, but this week we’re going to take a look at what to do when you can’t prevent an emergency. That’s when an Emergency Action Plan (or EAP) comes into play.
But what IS an Emergency Action Plan?
Simply put, it is a set of guidelines and practices assigned to specific emergency situations, such as a fire, tornado, active shooter, or chemical spill or leak. Remember when you had to do fire drills in elementary school? You were practicing the school’s Emergency Action Plan.
The EAP is an imperative tool that prepares everyone in a workplace for an emergency by assigning responsibilities to specific job roles, as well as outlining specific emergency evacuation routes for various emergency scenarios. Every workplace is required by OSHA to have a written Emergency Action Plan, unless they employ 10 or fewer employees, in which case it can be communicated orally.
EAP Minimum Requirements
On their website, OSHA outlines the minimum requirements that every EAP must follow. Every Emergency Action Plan must include:
- A means of reporting fires or other emergencies
- Evacuation procedures and emergency escape route assignments
- Procedures for employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before evacuating
- Accounting for all employees after an emergency evacuation has been completed
- Rescue and Medical duties for employees performing them
- Names or job titles of persons who must be contacted
Now, let’s go deeper into what each of those requirements means. Firstly, when an emergency – say a fire for example – breaks out, how is the alarm raised? Employees must know how they are meant to do this, whether by calling 911 or an internal emergency line, pulling a manual fire alarm, or both.
Next, employees must know proper evacuation procedures. What routes should be followed in case of a fire? What secondary exits are there in case the primary exit is blocked? Should employees working with machinery turn the machines off before evacuating to prevent further danger? All of this must be outlined in the EAP.
Assign Job Roles to Keep Your EAP Organized
Specific employees or job roles must also be assigned tasks in the event of an emergency: shutting off gas or electrical systems in the event of a fire, for instance. Make sure these employees know who they are and what their responsibilities entail.
After the evacuation has been completed, a roll call must be done to ensure that all employees were safely evacuated. In this case, a designated person must take charge of the roll call. Make sure that this employee is aware of their responsibility. While most facilities rely on local fire departments and hospitals to provide medical assistance, some might assign basic responsibilities to employees who are trained in First Aid.
Finally, whoever is in charge of the evacuation (possibly the person who is in charge of the roll call, or a second-in-command) must know the names, departments, and telephone numbers of specific people to call to provide information and updates about the evacuation.
Stay Familiar and Practice EAPs Regularly
It’s important that EVERY employee is familiar with the EAP, not just those who have designated emergency responsibilities. Employers should conduct regular drills, as well as train every new employee on the specifics of the plan. You can’t predict emergencies, but you can plan for them. If every employee is very familiar with the EAP, muscle memory will click into place in the face of danger and hopefully prevent any casualties.
To find out more about how to develop and implement an effective Emergency Action Plan, check out OSHA’s EAP E-Tools. For more safety tips for warehouses and manufacturing facilities, head to our Spotlight on Safety page, and be sure to check out our wide variety of safety-focused products, like our machine guarding systems and pallet rack fall protection systems.