Weather phenomenon isn’t the only concern when considering an emergency plan. OSHA defines workplace emergencies as “an unforeseen situation that threatens your employees, customers, or the public; disrupts or shuts down your operations; or causes physical or environmental damage” which can include:
- Toxic gas releases
- Chemical spills
- Radiological accidents
- Civil disturbances
- Workplace violence resulting in bodily harm and trauma
Keeping employees safe during a critical event is the top priority for any company, so consider these five steps to ensure trauma is kept at a minimum.
1. Utilize technology for emergency action plans.
Having an emergency plan is a requirement, but do your employees know what it is and whom to answer to during an emergency? Committing the plan to memory would be ideal but is probably unrealistic for most staff members. This is where technology can help. Utilizing technology that can securely store and share documents via multiple channels can be vital 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 of course, it is essential to have regular conversations about the plans so that employees and leaders know what to expect in case of an emergency.
2. Define coordinators and evacuation wardens.
A plan without coordinators will fall apart. During an emergency, people can forget what to do no matter how ingrained the action plan is. When that happens, they look to leaders to provide information they need, so these leaders need to be well-defined and knowledgeable about what to do. These responsible parties also need to be able to assist with disabled individuals to ensure everyone evacuates 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 that they are available and notified when necessary; and
- 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 check-in point. The recommended ratio is one warden for every 20 employees.
3. Run mock emergencies.
Go beyond running drills which calmly ask people to stand up and follow the leader. Instead, prep a mock emergency complete with hurt or struggling individuals and all of the things you’ll need to ensure safety. Change up what the emergency is to test your employees’ knowledge of the emergency action plan specific to that event. Assign one or multiple people to oversee the mock crisis, take notes on missed steps of the plan and poor behaviors, and address these openly and transparently with the emergency team and your workers.
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. Have a designated set at each desk is ideal, but if you can’t do that, provide clearly marked locations that store these items. Include the locations and how to use the items in your safety training and practice the procedures for using them during your mock emergencies.
5. Provide consistent, clear communication.
Your emergency leaders should be able to communicate in a professional, calm manner, but they shouldn’t be your only method of communication with employees during an event. Emergency notification systems can keep employees safe and aware of what is happening. Having a system that can alert employees and provide direction on their mobile devices and computers could be the key to prompt, safe reactions.
Remember, every incident requires a unique response, but if you put practices into place early and you make emergency safety a part of your company culture, you can help prevent trauma during a crisis.