How to Handle a Workplace Emergency

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How-to Handle a Workplace Emergency

We’ve discussed Emergency Preparedness Week earlier this week on the blog – But what about how to handle a workplace emergency? Emergency Preparedness Week is held for one week each year, and this week it’s May 5-11.

To celebrate, we’re sharing some of our best tips for emergency preparedness. 

Emergencies don’t wait until you’re home. We’ve covered general emergency preparedness, like what your emergency plan & kit should include, and that you should keep a version of both an emergency plan and kit in your workplace.

It’s smart to be prepared for emergency situations no matter where you are. Many tips for emergency preparedness in the home apply to the workplace, but there are a few other situations and procedures unique to work that are worth being prepared for. (It’s also an essential part of any Occupational Health & Safety program). 

Emergencies you could encounter at work are:

  • Fires/Structural failures
  • Medical emergencies
  • Attacks (Shootings, active assailants, etc.)
  • Industrial accidents (Ex. hazardous chemical spills, burns, etc.)

How can you prepare for emergencies in the workplace? We recommend:

  • Conduct a workplace risk assessment
  • Hold emergency drills at least once a year
  • Have an emergency kit in your office or workplace (Consider where the highest risk is, the amount of people and gather materials like blankets, food & water accordingly)
  • Have a rescue procedure for falls, slips and other accidents relevant that are relevant to your workplace
Four elements of a workplace emergency management program are:
  1. Prevention: Policies and procedures that minimize emergencies
  2. Preparation: Hold drills and activities to make sure personnel is familiar with the procedure
  3. Response: Action to take when emergency occurs
  4. Recovery: Practices to resume normal business operations
Here are six steps to plan for a workplace emergency: 
  1. Establish a planning team. The team should include representatives from different departments including senior management.
  2. Assess the risks and how the company can respond.
  3. Develop an emergency response plan.
  4. Implement the plan—Get supplies, communicate & train others
  5. Test the plan—Hold drills or exercises
  6. Improve the plan continuously. Revisit the plan at least once a year.

So, what should you include in step 3? Here are some things you should include in your written workplace emergency response plan:

  • Scope and outline potential emergencies
  • Alarms and other methods of initiating a response
  • Site-specific response procedures
  • Command structure, roles & responsibilities
  • How to shut down power & relevant machinery
  • How to evacuate the premises
  • Communication systems and protocols
  • Emergency contact lists
  • Resource list

Extra Workplace Emergency Tips  

  • Hold random emergency drills now and then—It can be worthwhile to show employees what a perceived threat is like, and how to ‘jump into action’ when you’re unprepared, and the hazard or incident is unplanned.
  • Don’t forget about visitors—If you have customers, clients or other personnel that are likely to be in the workplace, don’t forget to include provisions for them in your plan
  • Have accessible emergency information available—Having accessible emergency information includes posters and training videos

We hope this gives you an idea of what to include in your workplace emergency plan. This is a loose guideline for handling workplace emergencies, as we mention at the beginning of the article it’s wise to prepare for emergencies that are relevant to your workplace—For example, if you work at heights often, an emergency plan for workers who have arrested a fall will be a necessary emergency plan to have.

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