Where is your office emergency manual? If you can’t answer that question within a few seconds, it’s not much help to you in case of an emergency. What about your office emergency management team? Do they have a plan?
No one wants to encounter an emergency at work, but everyone should be prepared for emergencies. Having an office emergency management team made up of trained employees and offering training can significantly reduce the risk of group panic, injury and other risks that threaten your employees’ well-being.
Natural Disasters and Fires
Some things are universal. Every business needs a fire plan. Every business needs a first-aid kit. And every business needs to provide access for employees to dial 911. (How long would it take an employee in the warehouse to reach an outside line? It should take seconds, not minutes.)
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Association, known as OSHA, says that at a minimum, all businesses need the following:
- A preferred method for reporting fires and other emergencies
- An evacuation policy and procedure
- Emergency escape procedures and route assignments, such as floor plans, workplace maps, and safe or refuge areas
- Names, titles, departments, and telephone numbers of individuals both within and outside your company to contact for additional information or explanation of duties and responsibilities under the emergency plan
- Procedures for employees who remain to perform or shut down critical plant operations, operate fire extinguishers, or perform other essential services that cannot be shut down for every emergency alarm before evacuating
- Rescue and medical duties for any workers designated to perform them
That may seem extreme for a small business that only has, say, 10 people in 1,000 square feet of space, but luckily none of this takes much time or money to assemble.
Your preparations should respond to the most common dangers within your specific workplace. If you work with chemicals or heavy equipment, you’ll need plans to handle spills and accidents. If your area is prone to natural disasters such as tornadoes, hurricanes or earthquakes, plan ahead for those emergencies as well. For instance, you could keep clean bottled water and some shelf-stable food on hand in case you or members of your workforce get trapped.
If the entirety of your medical emergency preparation plan is to call 911, you aren’t prepared as you should be. Think about how many people are involved in your company: Do people come and go in your business? Do you interact with children or old people? Do you work with other vulnerable populations? If the answer to any of these is yes, then you need additional preparations. The Red Cross offers workplace training that can help your business prepare for medical emergencies. The organization can provide on-site training or help you find a community class if you don’t have enough people to justify on-site training.
Preparing for emergencies can make your workplace much safer than even other kinds of health education. You have more of a chance of choking to death (which could easily happen at work) than dying in a plane crash or from a gun accident. Over 5,000 people a year die in workplace accidents, but basic first-aid training can help improve these statistics. Knowing what to do before the ambulance arrives lowers the risk of death or permanent injury after an accident.
The most common cause of workplace death and injuries isn’t chemical spills or falls — it’s car accidents. From 2003-2017 more than 27,000 people died in work-related car accidents. To reduce these accidents, consider organizing a refresher course in defensive driving. This is critical for employees who are on the road often, such as salespeople or field service workers.
You may also want to consider providing active shooter training. Workplace violence isn’t limited to a disgruntled employee or armed customer, so consider training someone on your team in conflict deescalation.
How Often Should You Hold Emergency Response Training?
There’s no single, consistent deadline to refresh your employees’ training — CPR certification lasts for two years, for instance, but some safety experts recommend safety training every six months. The numbers vary from situation to situation. If you’re in a hurricane-affected area, it may make sense to plan and prepare before every hurricane season. Do what works best for your business.
It’s impossible to create a healthy workplace environment unless your employees feel confident that they can quickly and safely react to emergencies. Whatever form your office emergency management policy takes, make sure that your business is a safe and secure place for you, your employees and anyone else who steps through your door.
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