Emergency Response Planning
Emergency response planning is an important element of Occupational Health and Safety programs. Besides the major benefit of providing guidance during an emergency, developing the plan has other advantages.
You may discover unrecognized hazardous conditions that would aggravate an emergency situation and you can work to eliminate them. The planning process may bring to light deficiencies, such as the lack of resources (equipment, trained personnel, supplies) or items that can be corrected before an emergency occurs. In addition, an emergency plan promotes safety awareness and shows the organization’s commitment to the safety of workers. The lack of an emergency plan could lead to severe losses such as multiple casualties and possible financial collapse of the organization.
Since emergencies will occur, preplanning is necessary. An urgent need for rapid decisions, shortage of time, and lack of resources and trained personnel can lead to chaos during an emergency. Time and circumstances in an emergency mean that normal channels of authority and communication cannot be relied upon to function routinely. The stress of the situation can lead to poor judgment resulting in severe losses. A well thought out, well organized emergency response plan will help to eliminate these issues.
An emergency plan specifies procedures for handling sudden or unexpected situations. The objective is to be prepared to:
- Prevent fatalities and injuries.
- Reduce damage to buildings, stock, and equipment.
- Protect the environment and the community.
- Accelerate the resumption of normal operations.
Development of the plan begins with a vulnerability assessment. The results of the study will show:
- How likely a situation is to occur.
- What means are available to stop or prevent the situation.
- What is necessary for a given situation.
From this analysis, appropriate emergency procedures can be established. At the planning stage, it is important that the relevant individuals or groups be asked to participate. Members of the team can include:
- Employees with knowledge of the work
- Supervisor of the area or work
- Safety officer
- Health and safety committee
- Union representative, if applicable
- Employees with experience in investigations
- “Outside” experts
- Representative from local government, police, fire, or ambulance
Guidelines for Preparing and Emergency Plan
The Emergency Response Plan requires the following:
- A description of potential emergencies. This is extremely important from an educational standpoint. Emergency preparedness is essentially based on anticipating all possible situations. This may include but not limited to:
- Fire, Chemical Spill, Bomb Threat or Biohazard Leak and Spill, Earthquake, Power Outage, Severe Thunderstorms
- A method for reporting the emergency. Generally, telephone is the most effective however, an alternative should exist if the emergency disables the phones.
- A list of workers responsible in emergency situations and how to contact them. This should be plainly posted and include the Primary Incident Commander and Secondary Incident Commanders if the Primary Incident Commander is not available or indisposed.
- A plan for incident investigation and correction of hazards including responsibilities.
- A list of phone numbers for emergency and support services. This should be posted by the telephone and each workstation.
- A method for sounding an alarm, such as an air horn or warning bell.
- A map of the work place that shows evacuation routes, head count location, as well as location of emergency equipment, first aid station, fire extinguishers. This should be designed based on the workplace layout and posted where visible.
- The manager’s routine for shut down. This should be established to ensure if a shutdown occurs, no potential hazard may be left.
- A system for communication, both internal and external. Two-way radios, telephones or alarms should be available.
- An evacuation, head count and rescue plan. Rescues should only be attempted by trained persons and only if they do not risk injury to themselves. Each supervisor must have a roll call system in place to ensure all workers have been evacuated from the hazard area.
- Ensure any persons who require assistance are accounted for in the plan.
Emergency Response Equipment
The following equipment must be considered when developing an Emergency Response Plan:
- Fire Extinguishers
- Generally, at each Exit but consult with Ontario Fire Code Requirements for your workplace
- Emergency Exit Lights
- Located at each exit but consult with Ontario Fire Code Requirements for your workplace
- Should a power failure occur, the emergency lights should provide a minimum of 30 minutes of sufficient light for evacuation
- First Aid Station
- Ensure you are compliant based on requirements of Regulation 1101 based on workforce for kit size and additional requirements
- Ensure certified first aid attendants are in the workplace on each shift
- Specialized Equipment
- This may include respirators, tripods, confined space rescue equipment, sensors and other equipment specific to the job or task at hand. Reference the applicable
- Regulations and Standards that apply to your workplace for further instruction.
Emergency plan rehearsals need to be held. A rehearsal shall require:
- Notification of emergency services, all supervision and possibly prior notification of workers
- A pre-determined all clear signal to allow rapid return to work
- An evaluation system to determine the effectiveness of the emergency plan. (This is usually only a stopwatch timing to determine evacuation time.)
All staff will be required to complete training and understand their responsibilities in regards to emergencies and the procedures required. Training should be completed regularly including at minimum annually or when an emergency arises.