Preparing for Workplace Emergencies Before They Happen

workplace emergency team Working on an aerial lift is a risky business.  Despite modern safety equipment, accidents and emergencies in the workplace occur every year.  If you work on a job site that uses aerial lifts, you may have to deal with workplace emergencies. In which case it is better to be prepared than not.

Emergency preparedness in the workplace requires a team effort, and workers of all skill levels and across all departments must do their part to ensure that all employees can work together to safely achieve common goals. Plus, with a collaborative approach to workplace emergency preparation, workers may be able to prevent accidents, injuries, and fatalities before they happen.

What is a Workplace Emergency?

Before you learn how to deal with emergency situations in the workplace, you must recognize what such an event is. A workplace emergency is defined by OSHA as any situation that is a threat to workers, customers, or the general public, a situation that causes disruption to operations or a shut-down. It may also be a situation that causes environmental or physical damage.

An emergency in the workplace may be caused by natural events or man-made. A natural workplace emergency could include tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, earthquakes or extreme winter weather. Other examples of this type of emergency includes wildfires, chemical spills, explosions from nuclear sources, and other hazardous events.

A Closer Look at Emergency Preparedness in the Workplace

 An employer is responsible for emergency preparedness in the workplace. With a seamless approach to workplace safety, an employer can share emergency preparedness tips, guidance, and recommendations with workers and ensure they are well-equipped to manage risk.

Additionally, an employer must develop and implement emergency procedures and show workers how to deal with emergency situations in the workplace. This ensures that workers will know what to do in the event that a workplace emergency arises.

Emergency Procedures in the Workplace

 Workplace emergency procedures streamline the process of managing and reporting accidents. They ensure that workers know how to handle an emergency and can do their part to limit an incident’s impact.

When a business develops emergency procedures, it should consider a variety of factors, such as:

– How workers can safely evacuate a work area

– Emergency escape routes and procedures

– How an emergency should be reported

– Rescue and medical duties of workers who can provide support during an emergency

Emergency procedures in the workplace are not set in stone; instead, a business should be willing to review and update them over time. This ensures that a company can revamp its emergency procedures to meet the current needs of its personnel.

Furthermore, a company should pursue employee feedback as it develops and implements workplace emergency procedures. Workers can offer valuable insights that can help a business account for myriad emergencies. As a result, workers can help a business address emergencies now and in the future.

Dealing With Accidents and Emergencies in the Workplace

 Emergencies due to workplace accidents can be scary. Despite the frantic events that surround crises, someone needs to take charge. Timely action is vital to ensure injured workers receive swift medical care, and getting aid to those in need always comes first in workplace emergencies.

Next, management must ensure the safety of workers. Steps must be taken to evacuate the area when needed. Managers also need to prevent follow-up accidents from occurring. For example, suppose a sinkhole caused an equipment tip-over that resulted in injuries. After taking care of all workers who got hurt, the emergency response team needs to block off the area to prevent further damage.

Once the crisis has passed, the company needs to contact OSHA to explain what happened. OSHA uses the data to develop policies to prevent accidents and keep workers safe. The data is useful if you handled the workplace emergency correctly. Your actions can set an example for companies, so they understand how to handle similar situations.

Developing a Workplace Emergency Action Plan

 The best way to handle workplace emergencies is to develop a plan to manage accidents before accidents happen. Every company should have a written emergency response plan, and it should provide clear guidance on what to do in a workplace emergency. The plan should include how to evacuate in a crisis, and it should be easy to read and follow. If you don’t have a workplace emergency action plan, your safety supervisor can develop one. Then, make sure all managers know how to use this plan.

OSHA has guidelines for helping workers deal with on-the-job emergencies. These can be found in the OSHA bulletin “How to Plan for Workplace Emergencies and Evacuations,” which provides a blueprint for dealing with all types of crises. You may want to include some of the bulletin’s guidelines in your emergency response plan.

What qualifies as a workplace emergency? OSHA defines it as a severe situation that happens at work, such as:

  • Flood
  • Hurricane
  • FireCivil unrest
  • Chemical spill

Most people don’t expect to be involved in a workplace emergency. Yet, a workplace emergency can happen without notice, at any time — and businesses must prepare accordingly.

How to Prepare for Workplace Emergencies

 Knowing how to handle accidents and emergencies in the workplace starts with a written plan. Once you have that in place, these tips will also help:

  • Ensure your alarms work correctly.
  • Create an evacuation plan for natural disasters.
  • Distribute local emergency response phone numbers (fire, police, etc.) to all workers.
  • Share workplace emergency policies with all employees, at all levels and make these policies easily accessible to workers.
  • Develop an internal emergency response team and train a core group of workers in CPR, BLS, and other life-saving skills.
  • Make your emergency plans as detailed as possible. For example, have specific plans in place for workers who operate aerial lifts and other heavy machinery.
  • Provide detailed fall protection guidelines.
  • Describe what workers in each job should do if an accident or emergency in the workplace occurs.
  • Update your emergency response plan regularly and provide updated information to workers at least twice a year.
  • Establish workplace safety best practices. After an emergency is resolved, form a team to explore ways to improve emergency management and response.

For more helpful tips on dealing with workplace emergencies, check out OSHA’s “Planning and Responding to Workplace Emergencies” sheet.

Alert Workers of an Emergency Situation

One of the most important parts of any workplace emergency plan is a way to alert workers of the emergency and provide instructions on how to evacuate. Employers must make sure the alarms are easily recognizable by workers as a signal that the affected area needs to be evacuated. The alarms must have a secondary power source in case the electricity is shut off by the emergency.

Employers must have a method to alert those who are visually and hearing impaired. This may mean have some type of alert that isn’t just audible and visual. It is recommended by OSHA to have an emergency communication system to communicate with the fire department, law enforcement and other emergency personnel. This same system may also be used to notify workers.

A coordinator should be named to lead the evacuation plan in an emergency. All workers should know who this person is and understand that they make the decisions in an emergency situation. The coordinator assesses the situation and supervises all emergency efforts made during the event and evacuation.

The Bottom Line on How to Deal with Emergency Situations in the Workplace

For employers who want to teach workers how to deal with emergency situations in the workplace, training is paramount. Workers who understand how to identify and resolve emergencies can help businesses maintain safe, productive work environments. They can also learn how to use various processes and procedures to prevent emergencies before they occur.

Prepare for Emergencies with Aerial Lift Certification Training

 ALC’s training packages are designed to help you avoid serious on-the-job accidents and can help you comply with OSHA regulations. To learn more about our aerial and scissor lift training, please contact us online or call our OSHA training experts at (602) 277-0615.

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