“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
― Benjamin Franklin
In a competitive world in which businesses often find themselves the subject of public scrutiny for their responses to emergency events, it is essential to expect the unexpected. The responsibilities of business ownership are many, and the value of preparedness cannot be overstated. In your professional experience, it is very likely that you have been presented with an array of issues and challenges that, prior to becoming a business owner, you never anticipated. Sometimes the issues we face are inconvenient yet manageable, such as technology problems, or scheduling complications and delays. However, these smaller day-to-day issues pale in comparison to the threat posed to your business when a safety crisis or an emergency arises. Collaborating with your colleagues to craft an Emergency Action Plan, or EAP, can increase your business’s preparedness in the face of danger.
Unfortunately, like anywhere else, emergencies can happen at any given time in the workplace. Workplace emergencies include (but are not limited to) threatening situations, disruptions or shut-downs to operations, or incidents that cause environmental or physical damage. As a business owner, awareness of the possibility for such an event is critical! By demonstrating a commitment to safety through developing an Emergency Action Plan, you can increase the overall security of your clientele, your employees and your community.
At the most basic level, Emergency Action Plans provide guidelines for employer and employee actions and conduct during workplace emergencies. For your business, the first step toward preparedness is likely brainstorming an Emergency Action Plan checklist: you should identify potential emergency scenarios, and then investigate the safest and most efficient means of responding to them. From there, you can begin the process of developing a proper Emergency Action Plan that standardizes your workplace’s response to emergency situations. In general, an Emergency Action Plan is intended to structure and organize employer and worker activities and responses to workplace emergencies.
When developing a comprehensive Emergency Action Plan OSHA recommends conducting “hazard assessment”, which includes gathering data concerning chemical or physical hazards within or outside of workplaces that may cause an emergency. A strong Emergency Action Plan is tailored to the unique physical structure of your business and accounts for the needs of your employees. The plan should direct your employees to take the most appropriate and safe course of action, depending on site-specific structural features and the layout of your worksite, as well as the emergency systems available to you and your employees.
OSHA recommends an Emergency Action Plan for all businesses. Even if your business is not legally required to have a written Emergency Action Plan, creating one is a great way to ensure the health and safety of your workers and to protect your business from unforeseen catastrophes. Initially, developing a plan might seem overwhelming, as there is no singular “one size fits all” plan. Depending on the type of business that you own and operate, you may find it helpful to survey the Emergency Action Plan templates of other organizations in your field. If you are in need of an Emergency Action Plan example, reviewing the EAP models of similar businesses can serve as a great starting point for developing your own. Additionally, the Emergency Action Plan template OSHA offers here: https://www.osha.gov/sites/default/files/2019-03/sample_emergencyactionplan.doc is a very useful tool in the process of generating ideas for your organization or business’s plan.
Fortunately, developing an Emergency Action Plan is not something a business owner needs to do independently. In fact, it can be highly beneficial to workplace culture and morale to collaboratively consult with a diverse body of representatives in the development of your plan: including employees, management, local health departments and agencies, and public safety officials. It is important not to overlook the health, safety, or disability circumstances of your employees when creating an actionable emergency plan. Even dialoguing with representatives from local, state and federal agencies may be helpful in constructing an Emergency Action Plan that all employees can benefit from. Ultimately, the success of your plan is dependent on the understanding and cooperation of all persons in your workplace. While emergencies are not subject to standards, our response to them can be! The way we respond to emergency events can become standardized by offering our employees appropriate Emergency Action Plan Training. The most important part of any business’s Emergency Action Plan is the plan’s accessibility to all employees. Employees must be trained in the features of your Emergency Action Plan. Frequent trainings in the EAP benefit everyone affiliated with the business, as these plans results in fewer and less severe or life-threatening injuries, and less damage or destruction of facilities. Everyone involved with your business operations should be aware of the plan, and have an opportunity to practice implementing it with regular trainings. Consider conducting a yearly review and re-evaluation of your existing Emergency Action Plan, so you can update it accordingly as your workplace evolves. Remember, the act of creating an Emergency Action Plan is an invaluable investment not only in your business but in the wellbeing of your employees, your clientele and your community.