For those who work in high risk jobs, workplace safety is a topic that stays close in mind. In truth, even the most placid of occupations and workplaces can lend themselves to some dangerous moments — the coffepot inferno or the Acme anvil that cascaded through the heavens to eventually collapse poetically onto one of the copy-editors — when disaster strikes, it’s best to be prepared.
One of the main keys to safety in the workplace is to have an escape plan in place in the case of a fire, a bomb threat, or any other reason that makes it necessary to evacuate the building. Whether there are a large number of people in a workplace or just a few, proper organization is key when it comes to keeping everyone safe. Without it, it’s easy for employees to become panicked and the likelihood of injury increases substantially.
One of the first things that should be done long before any emergency situation occurs is choosing a leader. Because dealing with an emergency is not the same as dealing with everyday business needs, this may not be a person normally in a management role. Whoever this leader is, it’s important they’re able to remain calm and are capable of presenting themselves as an authority during a stressful situation. Because there may be many different ideas on what the appropriate procedure should be during an emergency, the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA) has developed regulations that help assure that certain regulations and standards are upheld during a workplace emergency.
- Have a procedure for reporting emergencies.
It’s important to know what is going to happen in the event of an emergency before it happens. There may be fire alarms to pull, a plan to call 911 or an internal emergency number. Especially for larger workplaces, this should link to an intercom system so everyone knows an emergency is actually happening and isn’t a drill. For those who may be hearing impaired, another inaudible alarm, such as a flashing light, may be used to assure everyone is aware of the situation.
- Have an emergency action plan in place.
It’s not enough to alert everyone that there’s an emergency. It’s important that employees know what to do depending on the type of emergency. In instances of a fire or gas leak evacuation procedures should be followed, and if there is a storm or some threat outside the building, seeking shelter inside is better. Larger companies often use a stairwell, smaller buildings might congregate in a closet, break room or restroom.
Often in an emergency situation, a power outage may take place, so having emergency lighting in place helps avoid potential catastrophe and keep everyone safe.
- Designate a clear chain of command
It’s likely that your leaders in a business strategy meeting will not be the same as those who will lead the employees and visitors in a company to safety should an emergency occur. However, whoever takes on the role should be able to take it on completely. By practicing various worst case scenarios, employees will get to know and understand who they must follow in an emergency situation. Those chosen for these leadership roles should be skilled in first aid and respiratory aids such as CPR or have the ability to operate respiratory masks.
While OSHA provides standards and guidelines for how companies should prepare from potential emergencies, having arrangements beyond those requirements are certainly recommended. Where a new business is concerned, establishing and notifying everyone of these procedures needs to be made a priority. During orientation procedures, employees should meet those who take on leadership roles in an emergencies.
Whatever emergency action plan a company puts in place, it should be tailored towards the size and type of the business. In a smaller store, one or two people in a leadership position will likely be enough in order to prevent chaos during an emergency situation. A larger corporation will need several people and will likely need to organize those persons with in a way that fits the seating arrangement of employees. Manufacturing plants, or other workplaces where there’s a lot of noise, may need to rely more heavily on the use of lights to communicate an emergency. Those who work outside, such as construction workers, may want to designate a trailer or some other safe place to go in the event of a storm or other inclement weather. The particular risks will vary depending on the size and nature of the business, so making sure the appropriate risk assessment is made is important.
In most cases, workplace emergencies will be rare, but because there is a potential of serious consequences it is important that they are treated as a real possibility. Even with all the proper plans and procedures in place, the ability of all employees to remain calm and professional is important to keeping everyone safe.
Sent by Jessica Stark