By: Ben J. Carnevale
An employee emergency plan, for a small business, is often the one element most absent when an emergency situation strikes that small business.
While implied to be part of a larger disaster recovery plan, or an emergency action plan (EAP), it can be said that small business entities (those having 10 or less employees) still find it a challenge to create, implement and maintain such a plan within their organizations.
This topic also revolves around an area of discussion often reviewed by our staff writers, and occasionally the focus of questions and comments from the readers of this website — e.g. with so much to do and with so little resources to meet ever growing demands on running a business, where can an organization look to if they wish to have an emergency action plan to help have a safe work environment for its employees? Hopefully, this posting will answer at least some of the concerns surrounding this question.
Employee Emergency Plans
Employee Emergency Plans as part of an Employee Action Plan (EAP) should be a written document required by particular Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards [29 CFR 1910.38(a)] where the purpose of that plan is to facilitate and organize employer and employee actions during workplace emergencies.
Additionally, an EAP plan basically should detail step-by-step procedures to follow in emergencies such as fire, chemical spill, or a major accident, and also include information such as whom to notify, who should do what, and where those step-by-step procedures are located.
For large businesses and enterprises, it is more likely to not only find such an emergency action plan, but more importantly that plan will also be most likely a part of that enterprise’s business continuity management plan. Unfortunately, that is too often not the case for small business entities.
Normally if a company has 10 or less employees, then having a written EAP is not even an OSHA requirement. Yet unforeseen disasters exist for all companies of all sizes and emergencies impacting those companies can come from many causes, including chemical, biological, bio terrorism, radiation, etc. Natural events such as tornadoes or hurricanes may also lead to emergency situations for both small and large business companies. And, without having an OSHA requirement, too often those small businesses are found to have little planning in place to address these emergency preparedness planning requirements.
The objective of this posting is to provide some very basic guides, information and focus for small businesses – i.e. those small enough to fall under the radar of OSHA requirements – so that they may see the benefits of having such emergency essentials and plans in place for their business entities.
This posting will focus on general industry environments and provide a basic framework document guideline needed by a small business to survive an emergency incident.
Emergency Action Plan Requirements
At least, the following guidelines to be included in such a document are:
Title Page – Emergency Action Plan – for <company> <address> and <date> prepared
Page 1 – Identify a Means of Reporting Emergencies including all of the Emergency Team Personnel Names and Phone Numbers such as the identity of the designated person responsible or in charge, the identity of the Emergency Coordinator, etc.
Page 2 – Evacuation Route Maps in each work area showing: Emergency Exits, Primary and secondary evacuation routes, location of fire extinguishers, fire alarm “pull” stations, assembly points, etc.
Page 3 – Emergency Phone Numbers –to include at least the following: Fire Department, Paramedics, Ambulance, Police, Security (if applicable), Building Manager (if applicable), etc.
Page 4 – Utility Company Emergency Contacts (specifying the name of the company, phone number and point of contact) to include at least the following: Electric, Water, Gas, Telephone Company.
Page 5 – Emergency Reporting and Evacuation Procedures for several types of emergencies, including at least the following: Medical, Fire, Severe Weather, Chemical Spill, Extended Power Loss, Bomb Threat, Inside Shooter, etc. If possible, include more information applicable to these emergencies. An example might be under the category of weather related emergencies, you might want to list certain procedures needed for Tornado vs. Earthquake vs. Flood vs. Hurricane, etc.
Page 6 – Critical Operations – During some emergencies, it may be necessary for some specially assigned employees to either remain at their work areas or other remote areas to perform critical operations. List those individuals, their work areas and description of assignment.
Page 7 – Training – You might include a list of employees who have been trained to ensure a safe and orderly emergency evacuation of other employees.
Page 8 – A description of the alarm system to be used to notify employees (including disabled employees) to evacuate or take other actions.
Page 9 – A secure onsite or offsite location to store originals or duplicate copies of accounting records, legal documents, your employee’s emergency contact lists, and other essential records.
Employee Training and Plan Review
Before implementing such an emergency action plan, your company must:
- Designate and train enough people to assist in the safe and orderly emergency evacuation of employees,
- Review the employee emergency plan components with each employee when the initial plan is developed and when each employee is initially assigned to the job,
- Review the plan with each employee when actions or responsibilities under the plan change,
- Practice the plan and review the plan at least annually.
This example of emergency preparedness action incorporated and implemented by a small business is one of the best ways for that business to protect its employees and workplace when an emergency situation strikes.