July is emergency month at Vanguard, and our goal is to help you prepare your facility for any and all emergencies that may come your way, including hurricanes.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, every facility is required to have an Emergency Action Plan (EAP). The good news is creating a comprehensive EAP that deals with issues specific to your worksite is not difficult. If your facility has 10 or fewer employees, you are not required by OSHA to write out your EAP, though it is highly recommended.
EAP task force
The best way to create your EAP is to put together a task force that includes a diverse group of representatives (management and employees). Your task force should meet frequently to review progress, allocate development tasks, and provide constant communication to the rest of your staff. The commitment and support of all your employees is critical to your EAP’s success. The task force will also be responsible for assisting other employees in the event of an emergency.
Your task force’s first order of business should be to perform a workplace assessment to determine your facility’s ability to handle emergencies. You need to account for what kind of emergencies you may face and what challenges your facility may encounter. Take into account your specific worksite layout, structural features, exit routes, and emergency systems. Should you employ any people who may need special assistance, their needs should be considered during the assessment.
Once you have your assessment in place, you can create your EAP. It is essential that your EAP be site-specific. According to OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.38(c), your EAP is required to include the following elements:
- Means of reporting fires and other emergencies
- Evacuation procedures and emergency escape route assignments
- Procedures for employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate
- 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 can be contacted
Although they are not specifically required, OSHA recommends that your EAP include the following:
- A description of the alarm system to be used to notify employees (including disabled employees) to evacuate and/or take other actions. The alarms used for different actions should be distinctive and might include horn blasts, sirens, or even public address systems.
- The site of an alternative communications center to be used in the event of a fire or explosion.
- A secure on- or offsite location to store originals or duplicate copies of accounting records, legal documents, your employees’ emergency contact lists, and other essential records.
Select a responsible individual to lead and coordinate your emergency plan and evacuation. This person will have the authority to make decisions during emergencies. They are responsible for assessing the situation to determine whether an emergency requires activation of the EAP. They are also responsible for overseeing emergency procedures, notifying and coordinating with outside emergency services, and directing shutdown of utilities or plant operations if necessary.
This person is in charge of the situation until emergency officials, such as the local fire department, arrive at your workplace. At that point, the officials will assume responsibility for the safety of building’s occupants and have the authority to make decisions regarding evacuation and any other actions necessary to protect life and property.
There should also be a vice coordinator (VC) in the event that the coordinator is out of the building at the time of an emergency. He/she needs to have a working knowledge of the EAP.
It’s vital that all employees are well versed in the working of the EAP, as well as who the coordinator and VC are. They should know their role in the EAP and exit routes.
OSHA recommends your training address the following:
- Individual roles and responsibilities
- Threats, hazards, and protective actions
- Notification, warning, and communications procedures
- Means for locating family members in an emergency
- First Aid Kit
- Emergency response procedures
- Evacuation, shelter, and accountability procedures
- Location and use of common emergency equipment
- Emergency shutdown procedures
We recommend you train employees in first aid. Evacuation drills are highly recommended. Consider retraining annually.
The task force should revisit the EAP on an annual basis to make sure it’s up-to-date.
Having an EAP is the first step to ensuring the safety of your workers. For more information on how to prepare for an emergency, contact Vanguard Resources.