All businesses should have an emergency response health and safety plan in place. While it may be unlikely that this kind of situation will occur, planning is key to taking appropriate action if it does happen.
What kinds of situations would be considered an emergency for your company? Any unplanned even that threatens your employees, customers or the general public would fall under this category. A situation that threatens to shut down or disrupt your normal business operation would also be considered an emergency. Examples of emergencies include the following:
- Communications failure
- Computer systems failure
- Hazardous materials incident
- Heating/cooling system failure
- Power outage
- Riot or civil disturbance
- Transportation accident
- Winter storm
- Act of terrorism
To prepare for the possibility of any one of these situations, your company needs to develop an emergency health and safety plan. Management and employees can work together to develop the plan. Key personnel can be appointed to take action if an emergency occurs.
Developing an Emergency Response Health and Safety Plan
The first step in developing the plan is to put a team together. These people are given the mandate to analyze hazards in the workplace and devise a strategy for dealing with emergency situations. The would also be given a budget to work with and a timeline for finishing the project.
Analyzing Hazards and Capabilities
To get an idea of the types of hazards that can affect the company, the Safety Committee members can start by listing the types of emergencies that could affect the company. Beside each item on the list, the following information should be noted:
- Human impact
- Property impact
- Business impact
- Internal resources available
- External resources available
The process of analyzing hazards also includes considering the part that human error or lack of training can play in unforeseen events. The potential for one of these factors leading to an emergency must be considered.
The business location or the building itself may also contribute to an emergency. The Safety Team must consider its design, construction and lighting when conducting its analysis. Any hazardous materials the company manufactures, uses, stores or ships will also be factored in.
The team needs to know where all the standard and emergency exists are located in the building. Available evacuation routes to get all staff, customers and visitors to safety, if necessary, must be mapped out.
Developing a Plan
Once the analysis has been completed, it's time to develop a plan for dealing with emergencies if they arise. It will include specific emergency response procedures that will be implemented as required. The bare bones of the part of the plan sets out the actions required to assess the situation and who would be responsible for doing so.
Once the threat has been assessed, appropriate action must be taken to protect employees, customers and anyone else on the premises. The plan should cover procedures for minimizing the risk of damage to equipment, inventory and company records.
The goal of the procedures listed in the emergency response health and safety plan is to get the business up and running again as soon as it can safely be done. A list of people to contact in an emergency should be available to key personnel, and a list of outside resources that can provide assistance should be prepared as well. The outside resources can include government agencies and companies that offer security, clean-up or other services.
Once the plan has been finalized, it can be shared with all employees and management personnel. If an emergency occurs, everyone should know what role they are expected to play and where they need to go to stay safe.
While an emergency may never impact a business, having a detailed plan in place will help to minimize confusion and help to get it back on track faster if one occurs.