How to Respond in an Emergency in the Workplace
Fire Prevention and Emergency Action plans are a necessary part of any business, whether it’s a construction or roofing business or not. An employer is legally required to have an emergency action plan in writing that is available to employees (although an employer with fewer than 10 employees may communicate the plan orally). An emergency action plan establishes a framework for responding to workplace emergencies. However, without training, employees cannot be expected to know what is written in the plan and what sort of hazards them are likely to face and how to respond to emergency situations.
In any emergency, it can be difficult to predict how employees will react so holding training sessions will help to increase such predictability by providing employees with the information necessary to make effective decisions and respond rapidly when an emergency occurs. Whether the plan involves evacuations or sheltering in place, knowing who is in charge in the event of an emergency, who to notify and when to do so is essential. The better trained employees are to follow emergency procedures, the more likely it is that th4ere will be a safe outcome.
There are several types of emergency and workplace hazards that may occur, some specific to the particular industry while others may occur whatever sector you operate in. However, any emergency plan should take into account the following issues:
- Fire – all facilities must plan for a fire and provide training for employees and hold regular fire drills. Employees must be aware of what the fire alarm sounds , taught how to navigate evacuation routes, where to muster after evacuating and whom to report to.
- Alarms and Alerts – auditory and visual alarms can alert employees of a processing line that is due to start moving, or warn pedestrians that a forklift is reversing and entering an intersection. Employees should be able to recognise various sounds and lights that are used as a warning system. If multiple types of alarm are in use, each should be distinctive enough not to cause confusion.
- Evacuation Procedures – when an evacuation is necessary, it’s vital that employees know where the exit routes are located. Training and regular drills will help to overcome any uncertainty and, if there are multiple evacuation routes available, it’s essential that the right routes are used in order to avoid one specific exit being overwhelmed during an evacuation.
- Shutdown and Response Procedures – during an emergency the majority of employees may be required to evacuate, but other may be assigned to operational shutdown tasks that need to be carried out before they evacuate or seek shelter. Some of these tasks could include backing up digital information, turning off machinery or closing doors and gates. Each of these tasks should be assigned to a specific person and these people should be fully trained on how to carry out the tasks safely and quickly so that they can evacuate as soon as possible.
- Accountability – most employees will recognise the need to evacuate to preserve their personal safety. However, without training, they may not recognise the importance of getting to a muster point quickly and checking in with a safety warden. Checking in is vital so that an emergency responder can make an informed decision on assembling everybody safely and finding missing people.