Severe weather isn’t the only concern when considering an emergency plan. OSHA defines workplace emergencies as “a situation that threatens your employees, customers, or the public; disrupts or shuts down your operations; or causes physical or environmental damage.” These may be natural or man-made, and include:
- Toxic gas releases
- Chemical spills
- Radiological accidents
- Civil disturbances
- Workplace violence resulting in bodily harm and trauma
Employee safety during a critical event is the top priority for any company. When considering how to account for employees during an emergency, consider these five steps to minimize trauma.
1. Utilize technology for emergency action plans.
Having an emergency plan is a requirement, but do your employees know exactly what steps to take in an emergency situation? Do they know who to contact? Although committing the plan to memory would be ideal, it’s unrealistic for most staff members. This is where technology can help. Utilizing technology to securely store and share documents via multiple channels is a vital capability in an emergency. These tools ensure everyone will receive the same details and can provide clarity at a moment’s notice. The emergency action plan may be unique for different crises, so it’s essential to have regular conversations about the plans so employees and leaders know what to expect.
2. Define coordinators and evacuation wardens.
A plan without coordinators will fall apart. During the chaos of crisis, people often forget what to do. In those moments, they look to leaders for guidance, so these leaders need to be well-defined and knowledgeable. Responsible parties also need to be able to assist with disabled individuals, so everyone is accounted for and evacuated efficiently.
According to OSHA, the coordinator should be responsible for:
- Assessing the situation to determine whether an emergency exists requiring activation of your emergency procedures
- Supervising all efforts in the area, including evacuating personnel
- Coordinating outside emergency services, such as medical aid and local fire departments, and ensuring they’re available and notified when necessary
- Directing the shutdown of plant operations when required
Evacuation wardens should help move employees to safety, assist disabled individuals and provide accountability measures at the safety check-in point. The recommended ratio is one warden for every 20 employees.
3. Run mock emergencies.
Go beyond running drills where you calmly ask people to stand up and follow the leader. Instead, prep a mock emergency complete with hurt or struggling individuals and all the items you need to ensure safety. Change up the type of emergency to test your employees’ knowledge of the action plan specific to that event. Assign one or multiple people to oversee the mock crisis and take notes on missed steps and poor behaviors. Afterwards, address these openly and transparently, so everyone knows the right steps to take in an emergency situation.
4. Make special equipment readily available.
Depending on your location and industry, some events may require special equipment such as respirators, suits, gloves, goggles or hard hats. A designated set at each desk is ideal, but if you can’t do that, provide clearly marked locations where these items are stored. Include the locations and how to use the items in your safety training. Then practice those procedures during your mock emergencies.
5. Provide consistent, clear communication.
Designated emergency leaders should be able to communicate in a professional, calm manner. However, they shouldn’t be your only means of delivering emergency information for staff. An emergency notification system (ENS) can keep employees safe and aware of what’s happening in real time. Having a system to alert employees and provide direction on their mobile devices and computers encourages prompt, safe reactions. An ENS can also provide a method for employee safety check-in, which improves your ability to account for employees during an emergency.
Remember, every incident requires a unique response, but if you put practices into place early and make emergency safety a part of your company culture, you can help prevent trauma during a crisis.
Learn more about employee safety and communications today so you’re ready for whatever tomorrow brings.