Emergencies can take many forms. Whether natural or made-made, disasters can strike at any time–often when you least expect it. 

Statistics show that 1 in 4 businesses won’t reopen following an emergency. They also demonstrate that the frequency and significance of man-made and natural disasters is increasing. Timely actions are critical when an emergency occurs. Being prepared is essential to responding effectively and protecting your workers and business. 

 OSHA defines a workplace emergency as, “a situation that threatens workers, customers, or the public; disrupts or shuts down operations; or causes physical or environmental damage.”2 Examples include natural hazards like hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, and tornadoes, health hazards such as the pandemic or the flu, human hazards like violent acts, and technological hazards such as power outages. 

 These examples show how taking quick action can protect workers and the public: 

  • Occupants are immediately evacuated when a fire or chemical spill occurs.  
  • Workers are moved to the strongest part of a building and away from glass when a tornado warning is issued.  
  • A building is evacuated after a bomb threat is received.  
  • Employees are instructed to barricade themselves from a perpetrator.3  

But how do you plan for an emergency? OSHA instructs you to create an emergency action plan (EAP).4 The U.S. Small Business Administration simplifies this into three simple steps:  

  1. Assess your risk. 
  2. Create a plan. 
  3. Execute your plan. 

Both start by conducting a risk assessment to understand what can happen.  

Risk assessment is the process of identifying potential hazards and their effects. For each hazard identified, create scenarios to show possible outcomes. Determine the probability and magnitude of the hazards. Next, examine which assets are at risk and note their vulnerabilities. Then, detail the impacts of damages to your assets. Last, use this information to create your emergency action plan so you can be prepared to act quickly and mitigate damages.5 

Best practices for creating your emergency action plan include: 

  • Describing the different emergencies and how workers will respond. 
  • Ensuring you account for the specific attributes of your job site. This could include how your workplace is laid out and the emergency systems employed. 
  • Creating unique plans for each of your worksites.  
  • Employing a diverse team throughout every step in your planning process and meeting regularly to review and refine the plan.6 

While not all businesses are required by OSHA to create an EAP, it is recommended. Remember to include important items like procedures for reporting fires and emergencies and directions on emergency escape routes. Leaders should also account for all workers after an evacuation, provide contact information and responsibilities for key personnel, and detail processes for workers who must stay behind and complete or shut down essential operations. 7 

Every business and job site is different and could be exposed to a variety of situational hazards. TPC Training can help you identify those hazards and create your emergency procedures. Connect with a member of our training team to get started.  



About the author:

Taylor Sikes is a safety professional with over 15 years of experience. He has served as an OSHA-authorized trainer for construction and general industry, holds a Master of Arts degree from the University of Georgia, and has authored numerous courses in workplace safety.


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