Are emergency evacuation drills required by OSHA?

OSHA’s document titled How to Plan for Workplace Emergencies and Evacuations specifically states: “Once you have reviewed your emergency action plan with your employees and everyone has had the proper training, it is a good idea to hold practice drills as often as necessary to keep employees prepared.” As can be seen here, OSHA does not place any restrictions or regulations on when and how often evacuation drills should be performed by employees. Instead, it offers up a recommendation for employers to maximize employee safety by encouraging the use of drills as an essential part of training for emergency situations.

OSHA’s document goes even further to say “Include outside resources such as fire and police departments when possible. After each drill, gather management and employees to evaluate the effectiveness of the drill. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of your plan and work to improve it.” When performing an evacuation drill, it is preferable to have the event resemble a real emergency evacuation if at all possible since that will allow for any and all mistakes to be seen and fixed before a real emergency occurs. The simple act of reflection has the ability to protect employees from emergency events that have the potential to seriously injure or kill workers.

There are two choices when it comes to performing emergency evacuation drills, and those are ones that are planned ahead of time, and ones that are a surprise to the employees. The latter gives employers information on whether or not employees need more training, while a planned evacuation gives employees a chance to “practice” in a knowingly safe environment with potentially new protocols.

How Often are Drills Necessary?

Ideally, the frequency of these drills should happen multiple times per year. For example, it is recommended that fire drills occur every three months, or in some cases every six months. The choice of how often these should be performed depends on the type of environment the work is in. If the fire hazards are serious, every three months is preferable, but if there is only minor risk, then every six months should be fine. The goal regarding frequency is to keep employees’ minds fresh with emergency evacuation information.

 

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