Preparing the Workplace with Emergency Action Plans (EAP)

Preparing the Workplace with Emergency Action Plans (EAP)

Preparing the workplace for an emergency can be incredibly difficult due to the amounts of “what ifs” and various hazards that may be lurking around waiting to cause catastrophe at a moment’s notice. To be more prepared for these instances of emergency occurrences, think about creating an in-depth emergency action plan. Not only required by OSHA but an emergency action plan also has been proven to be a valuable asset for businesses because they save lives and have the potential to save valuable property.

What does EAP stand for?

EAP stands for Emergency Action Plan. An EAP is required by OSHA’s 29 CFR 1910.38 regulation for companies that have more than eleven employees. An EAP is a written document that outlines emergency procedures to be taken by both employees and employers in the event one surfaces.

Emergency action plans can be mistaken for Emergency Response Plans when in fact the difference between an EAP and an ERP lies in the fight or flight response predetermined by the written procedure. Emergency action plans are meant to be defensive in nature, they aim to grant emergency responders full control of handling the emergency rather than anyone within the company. This does not mean the employees aren’t capable of taking care of themselves, it’s a matter of the emergency responders having more expertise and the correct type of PPE/equipment to take care of the emergency. With that being said, emergency action plans focus on orderly evacuation using predetermined procedures while also taking charge of gathering critical information for emergency responders to use for, metaphorically, “putting out the fire” – unless that is the nature of the emergency already, of course.

On the other hand, an emergency response plan, takes the “fight” stance. This type of response aims to take offensive action against the hazard to protect people and lessen significant property damage. An ERP often requires much more planning, specific training, and PPE for maximum protection than simply being able to evacuate like its counterpart, the EAP. An emergency response plan can often be seen being used at companies that don’t have local emergency responders within proximity to the business location. ERPs still require the company to call responders to the scene, it just takes more time for them to get there, hence the company’s need to respond to the emergency themselves.

With that difference covered, this article aims to go over the “flight” action known as emergency action plans.

OSHA Standards for Evacuation Plans + Procedures

Staying in compliance with OSHA is always a high priority. There are a few mandates that must be met according to 29 CFR 1910.38 for all emergency action plans. These include:

  • A written plan for those with more than 10 employees or reciting the plan orally for companies with 10 or fewer employees
  • An alarm system in place and maintained
  • Training
  • Reviewing the EAP with employees

There are also minimum requirements for the EAPs set forth by OSHA, these are:

  • A means of reporting emergencies
  • Evacuation procedures and emergency escape route assignments
  • Procedures for those who must shut down critical plant operation before departing
  • Accounting for all employees after an emergency evacuation has been completed
  • Rescue and medical duties for employees performing them
  • Names and job titles of persons who can be contacted

How to Make an Emergency Action Plan

Making an emergency plan can be quite a bit of work, but that shouldn’t deter the employer when lives are on the line. Creating a successful EAP begins with considering any evacuation elements.

Some evacuation elements include the conditions in which evacuation or stay-in-place orders are needed, a clear chain of command, evacuation procedures including routes and exits for employees and any visitors, proper PPE, and a list of designated employees who will deal with shutting down operations before evacuating themselves. While this is not a comprehensive list, the elements named are a good start to creating your EAP.

Emergency Action Plan Steps

  • Assemble a team: A strong EAP means that there is clear communication between employees and management as well as participation from both ends.
  • Perform a risk assessment: Use a risk assessment to find hazards that endanger people, and physical assets like the building itself, equipment, product, computer systems, security, etc.
  • Establish performance objectives: Performance objectives are essentially goals to meet while creating an emergency action plan.
  • Create a written policy: A written document with emergency action plan information must include the minimum requirements that OSHA has deemed necessary for compliance.
  • Build an on-site emergency response team: Developing an emergency response team is essential for the correct implementation of an evacuation or other actions during an emergency. These are the people who will assist in making sure employees are safe as well as communicate effectively with emergency responders.
  • Train employees: Offering training is essential for workers to be adequately prepared. Offer first aid training, fire extinguisher training, and any other type of emergency response that may be necessary.
  • Practice and review the EAP: Without practice nothing will be remembered by employees. Going over the emergency action plan at least once a year is a good refresher and will lessen the stress during the event of an actual emergency.

Floor Marking for Emergency Evacuation

In the event of an emergency evacuation, the employers must provide the employees with the correct tools to exercise an orderly and calm exit of the building. One way to do this involves employees familiarizing themselves with floor plans of the building posted around the area. However, an even more obvious way to denote emergency exit routes is the use of floor marking.

If the choice has been made to utilize this great tool for marking exit routes, then some tips that may prove useful include:

  • Floor markings should be one color or pattern to specify an emergency exit route. This will help eliminate any confusion during drills or a real emergency.
  • Place floor marking shapes or tape. The goal is to have workers leave as fast as possible by using the closest exit.
  • Consider using traction tape on exit routes to avoid slips and falls.
  • Visibility is everything. Photoluminescent tape, or glow tape as many know it, is incredibly useful in the event of a power outage.

Why is emergency planning important?

Companies that choose to utilize emergency action plans correctly benefit in several different ways. The first and foremost of those benefits is providing guidance to employees during an emergency. Having a prepared plan for any variety of emergency helps keep employees calm and focused while performing their assigned duties whether that be evacuating or taking action.

EAPs will also improve the company’s ability to recover, whether that be from financial losses, equipment or product damage, or the interruption of business. The ability to recover is much better than failing to reopen a business, in the worst-case scenario.

Planning an EAP may reveal previously unrecognized hazards. One of the essential steps to creating an excellent EAP is to perform a hazard assessment for all external and internal hazards that may exist in the workplace. Revealing new hazards means there is time to eliminate or mitigate those risks before the incident occurs.

The planning process may reveal a lack of resources. This can mean anything from lacking equipment, training, or supplies. Again, planning an EAP means that the employer will have time to remedy this type of problem before an emergency occurs.

Lastly, EAPs are important because they promote teamwork amongst employees and upper management as well as build a strong rapport with law enforcement leaders and emergency response teams. Safety culture is everything when companywide participation in taking emergency preparedness seriously is on the line.

Overall, the lack of an emergency action plan has the potential to lead to severe injuries and death within your workforce. Doing without also limits a business’s recovery ability which may lead to ultimate financial collapse of the company itself – something no one is able to overcome easily.

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