You may not expect an emergency or natural disaster to occur in the workplace, but it is important to be prepared because dangerous situations can strike at any time and with little or no warning. OSHA regulations require that almost every business develop an emergency action plan. Having an emergency action plan in place is key to preventing a disorganized evacuation or emergency response that could result in confusion, injury, and property damage.
What is a Workplace Emergency?
A workplace emergency is an unforeseen situation that threatens your employees, customers, or the public; disrupts or shuts down your operations; or causes physical or environmental damage. Emergencies may be natural or manmade and include the following:
- Toxic gas releases
- Chemical spills
- Radiological accidents
- Civil disturbances
- Workplace violence resulting in bodily harm and trauma
Protecting Your Employees and Your Business
The best way to protect your employees and your business from a natural disaster or other dangerous situation is to prepare to respond to an emergency before it happens. Few people can think clearly and logically in a crisis, so it is important to do so in advance when you have time to be thorough.
Brainstorm the worst-case scenarios. Ask yourself what you would do if the worst happened. What if a fire broke out in your boiler room? Or a hurricane hit your building head-on? Once you have identified potential emergencies, consider how they would affect you and your workers and how you would respond.
How to Plan for Workplace Emergencies
OSHA and the Department of Labor have developed a very useful guide called How to Plan for Workplace Emergencies that can help you protect your company in the case of an emergency or natural disaster. The following links contain additional information that may be helpful in developing an emergency action plan and in taking other steps to keep your company and employees safe.
- OSHA: Evacuation Plans and Procedures eTool (includes information on emergency action plan requirements)
- FEMA: Protecting Your Businesses
- FEMA: Protecting Business Records and Inventory
- FEMA: Emergency Management Guide for Business and Industry
- Guidance for Preventing Workplace Violence for Health Care and Social Service Workers