This week’s Safetip is about emergency action plans and the importance of reviewing them systematically at least once a year.
A Written Emergency Action Plan is Required by Law
OSHA’s 1910.38 standard requires employers with more than 10 employees to have an emergency action plan. The plan must be in writing, kept in the workplace, and available to employees for review. OSHA’s standard says that an emergency action plan must include the following elements at a minimum:
- Procedures for reporting a fire or other emergency.
- Procedures for emergency evacuation, including type of evacuation and exit route assignments.
- Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to operate critical plant operations before they evacuate.
- Procedures to account for all employees after evacuation.
- Procedures to be followed by employees performing rescue or medical duties.
- The name or job title of every employee who may be contacted by employees who need more information about the plan or an explanation of their duties under the plan.
OSHA has a separate standard for the construction industry for emergency action plans (1926.35). The elements are mostly the same but they’re worded differently.
Employers are also required to designate and train employees to assist in a safe and orderly evacuation of other employees.
An Emergency Action Plan Should be Reviewed
It is recommended to conduct exercises and drills to practice all or some elements of the plan (e.g. emergency escape routes). After each exercise or drill, you should assess if there are areas that need to be improved. An assessment should also be made after an actual emergency when the plan was put in motion. In addition, review an emergency action plan whenever there are changes to the physical layout of a workplace, or changes to processes, materials and personnel, and make the required updates. Also, review systematically an emergency action plan at least once a year to:
1) Make sure changes that may impact the plan were not overlooked.
2) Evaluate the effectiveness of the plan.
3) Determine if more training is needed.
Here are some useful links with more information on emergency action plans:
- When Disasters Strike: Planning and Preparing for Emergencies (EHS Today article)
- Emergency Preparedness and Response (OSHA website)
- Emergency Planning (CCOHS website)