Companies strive for a safe working environment, but no matter how seriously your company views workplace safety, things happen beyond your control. Workplace emergencies may include a fire, bomb threat, severe weather, earthquake, pandemic illness, or a violent incident in the workplace. Developing a preparedness plan will assist you in ensuring the safety and well being of your employees in the event of such an emergency.
An emergency action plan spells out how employers and employees should respond to emergencies. Whenever possible, the procedures should be developed as a series of checklists that can be accessed quickly by senior management, department heads, response personnel and employees. OSHA suggests that a plan include:
- Emergency escape procedures and route assignments;
- Pre-evacuation procedures to be followed by employees who remain to perform or shut down critical operations;
- Post-evacuation procedures to account for all employees;
- Reporting methods for fires or other emergencies; and
- Contact information, including the names or regular job titles of people or departments that can provide further information or explanation of duties under the plan.
The OSHA publication “How to Prepare for Workplace Emergencies” offers guidance in putting together your emergency action plan.
In addition to planning for the general safety of employees in the event of an emergency, a primary objective in emergency contingency planning is determining how the business will continue to operate in the event of such a disaster. Consider what are the core functions and who are the essential employees needed to maintain operations? Some employers, such as hospitals, must make provisions to have a minimum number of employees and operations working at all times. Some employers arrange for an alternative location where essential employees can access backups of important files and perform key tasks during an emergency. During an catastrophic event, local, state, or federal authorities might prohibit or severely curtail individuals’ access to and use of public services and public transportation; close or prevent access to buildings or public highways; isolate or quarantine buildings’ occupants; and prevent inter- or intrastate delivery of goods and services. Companies should prepare to continue key operations from remote work locations, including essential employees’ home offices. Essential roles and need for back-up resources might include Human Resources, Finance, IT, Operations, Sales/Marketing, and Client/Customer Management. Having systems in place in advanced of an emergency will ensure the smooth running of operations in the face of adversity.