Workplace emergencies: Preparation can save lives

What would you do if your worksite caught fire or a chemical release occurred in your facility? Workplace emergencies are more common than you may realize, and it’s important to consider worst-case scenarios. A disorganized response to an emergency can lead to confusion, property damage, injury or even death. Emergencies that you may have to face at your business include:

  • Explosions or fires
  • Natural disasters
  • Hazardous/toxic material releases
  • Radiological and biological accidents
  • Workplace violence
  • Active-shooter situations

Evacuation or shelter in place?

When and if you are faced with an emergency at your workplace, you will have to decide the appropriate course of action: evacuation, leaving the scene, or shelter in place, taking refuge in a room with no or few windows. You should understand and plan for both possibilities. Local authorities may or may not be able to immediately assess the situation and give instruction right away. That’s why it’s important to think about emergency scenarios before they occur. Here are some important steps in emergency preparation to get you started:

  • Make sure you have a clear chain of command, including a qualified person with appropriate training who will coordinate your emergency plan and direct the response to an emergency.
  • Develop specific shelter-in-place and evacuation procedures, including routes and exits. Be sure these plans include workers with physical or mental disabilities, as well as visitors who may be at your facility.
  • Have a plan to account for workers after an evacuation.
  • Organize regular practice drills and train your employees on proper procedures. Workers may need to be trained to respond differently to different threats.

OSHA resources

An Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is a document required by some OSHA standards (including 29 CFR 1910.38(a) and 29 CFR 1926.35) to help facilitate and organize employer and employee actions during workplace emergencies. See OSHA’s Emergency Action Plan Checklist for more assistance in developing an EAP.

For further guidance in preparing for emergencies at your place of business, click here.