Planning Ahead for an Emergency Response

No matter how hard you work at improving the safety of a facility there is always the chance that there will be an emergency situation that comes up. Whether it is an employee that gets injured at work, a fire, a chemical spill or any number of other things, it is important to plan a proper emergency response for every possible situation. Planning ahead may include utilizing special safety tools such as glow-in-the-dark floor signs or photoluminescent tape.

This can be quite difficult because of the fact that emergencies, by their very nature, are difficult to predict. In addition, there are so many different types of emergencies, it can be hard to prepare a response plan for every one of them. While it is important to come up with a specific emergency response plan for your facility, it can be helpful to look at general guidelines that work across virtually every industry. These concepts can help you to come up with new ideas that can be implemented or customized for your facility.

Call Emergency Services

According to OSHA’s Fact Sheet pertaining Planning and Responding to Workplace Emergencies:

Where required by some Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards, firms with more than 10 employees must have a written emergency action plan; smaller companies may communicate their plans orally.

-OSHA – Planning and Responding to Workplace Emergencies

Start with General Situations

When creating a new emergency response plan for your facility, you’ll want to start out by thinking about the different types of situations that might occur. Starting with very broad categories will help you to come up with basic ideas of what needs to be done in certain situations. From there, you can narrow it down further where needed. The following are some general types of emergencies that can be a great place to start from:

  • Fire – If there is a fire in your facility, you can have some basic emergency response plans in place no matter the size or type of fire. Things like notifying the fire department, evacuating and ensuring all employees are accounted for are good examples of this. Also, identifying where employees should go when they evacuate will help keep everyone safe and organized. Using glow-in-the-dark arrows  or even glow-in-the-dark floor tape can help route your employees to the nearest exits.
  • Severe Injury – When an employee is severely injured, you’ll want to take some action to get them the help they need right away. Some general responses that could be used would include notifying the paramedics, attempting to stabilize the individual if possible, and removing any threat of further injury.
  • Chemical Spill – While there are many different types of chemicals that industries use, they can almost all be hazardous if spilled. Evacuating the area, providing any cleanup crew with protective gear or spill kits and notifying any necessary authorities are a few things that should be done in any chemical spill emergency.
  • Hazardous Weather – If your facility is in an area where a tornado or severe thunder storm could hit, planning an emergency response for hazardous weather is a good idea. Identifying ‘shelter-in-place’ areas is a great start. In addition, taking steps to ensure everyone in the facility is accounted for is necessary.

As you can see, each of these are very broad categories, but they still have some specific steps that need to be taken in response to the emergencies. There are many other categories of emergency, so make a list of all the broad categories that could affect your facility, and come up with some high-level response plans that everyone can follow.

Having these general guidelines will act as a ‘minimum response’ to the emergency. If everyone at least knows how to respond according to these high level guidelines, it will help the safety manager or others responsible for the safety of the facility to be able to respond better to the emergency.

Designate Safety Wardens

Once you’ve got everyone in the facility trained on how to respond to emergencies, it is time to take emergency safety a step further. Finding a small number of employees, from throughout the facility, who want to get more specific training is the next step. Once you’ve identified who will be the designated leaders in an emergency, you’ll have to provide them with the necessary training, tools, and authority to respond properly to any emergency situation.

Many facilities designate these individuals as ‘safety wardens’ and provide them with an ‘emergency response tool-kit’ which they can keep near their work station. This kit can contain a variety of things, including the following:

  • Flashlight
  • First Aid Tools
  • Haz-mat gear
  • Safety Warden Vest
  • Communications devices (walky-talky’s, cell phone, etc)

Each facility will have to come up with the specific gear that the safety wardens will need, but the general idea is that they will have everything they need for responding to an emergency. Most of the equipment listed has an obvious use. The safety warden vest is critical because it will designate them as the leader during an emergency. During the chaos of most emergencies, people need to know exactly who they should be following and listening to. Everyone should know that when there is an emergency, they should always look to the individual in the vest.

The additional training that the safety wardens receive could include things like how to perform CPR, how to use an automated electronic defibrillator (if you have them in your facility) and much more. In addition, they should be trained on emergency response actions that are appropriate for more specific situations. If someone gets a head injury, for example, they will want to be able to respond differently than if someone has broken their arm.

Regular Emergency Response Training Drills

While getting everyone trained and up to speed on the emergency response policies of the facility is important, it will be useless without ongoing training and drills to keep everything fresh in their heads. Most facilities do a good job at having fire drills, because those are often mandated by local or state laws or regulations. Other emergency response actions, however, are typically neglected or considered a waste of time beyond the initial training.

This is a big mistake many facilities make, and it could actually be a life threatening error. To dramatically improve the way your facility response to an emergency, make sure you’re performing regular drills and classes to keep everyone prepared. In most cases just one drill per month should be sufficient, as long as you rotate the types of drills that are done each month. Since most drills take thirty minutes or less to complete, this is a very small investment with a huge payoff in terms of facility safety.

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