EAP is an abbreviation for Emergency Action Plan. These plans are an integral component to safety procedures and help coordinate actions that take place in response to an emergency in the workplace. EAPs designate responsibilities to specific employees so there is no disorganization, injury, or property damage during an emergency and instead a safe response is smoothly facilitated.
Each organization should establish an EAP that is unique to their facility. The first step is to identify the emergencies that are most likely to occur at your workplace and plan accordingly. There are three main types of emergencies:
- Emergencies outside the building: Extreme heat, lightning and thunderstorms, tornadoes, flooding
- Emergencies within the building: Fire, power outages, active shooters, spills of hazardous materials
- Health-related emergencies: Concussions, drownings, heart attacks, seizures
Appropriate response will depend on the emergency; it may be best to evacuate, or it may be best to shelter in place. In either case, it’s essential for employees to understand what to do, where to go, and how to get there. The Emergency Action Plan must include current floor plans that detail all emergency exits, escape routes, assembly locations, and places to take shelter.
On top of these details, OSHA requires that EAPs also include:
- Procedures for response depending on the type of emergency
- Information on employee responsibilities, including those who are designated as evacuation wardens (one warden for every 20 employees) or those who may be required to remain behind to complete shutdown operations before evacuating
- Procedures for reporting an emergency
- Procedures for accounting for all employees; the type of emergency may complicate this step (ex: active shootings)
- Identification of employees who are responsible for providing information to outside services, including responding to the media, contacting family members, or alerting first responders; this is important to prevent confusion, delay, or multiple calls
The EAP must be kept in writing and made available for employee review. If your company has less than 10 employees, you may communicate the plan orally. Individuals who have assigned roles need to have a clear understanding of their responsibility and feel comfortable carrying it out in order to achieve a safe and smooth emergency response. Many companies conduct evacuation drills to practice their EAP, giving employees the opportunity to familiarize themselves with essential components of the plan and their roles. In the event of an actual emergency, a thorough understanding of the Emergency Action Plan can save lives.
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