Andrew Johnson, CSP, CHST, AGC Safety Management Consultant
Workplace emergencies can happen on any jobsite, and may have the potential for severe injury to workers and even extreme property damages. Emergency Action Plans provide site-specific procedures so workers know what is expected and what to do in the event of an emergency.
According to OSHA, the purpose of an Emergency Action Plan (or EAP for short) is to facilitate and organize employer and employee actions during workplace emergencies.
The goal with any EAP is to save lives and prevent life-altering injuries and potential damage to the facility or project during emergencies. The EAP aims to improve disaster response by better organizing, coordinating, and streamlining employee and employer actions.
OSHA Standard 1926.35(a) The emergency action plan shall be in writing and shall cover those designated actions employers and employees must take to ensure employee safety from fire and other emergencies. 1926.35(e)(3) For those employers with 10 or fewer employees the plan may be communicated orally to employees and the employer need not maintain a written plan.
In the event of an emergency all personnel must know to do or be aware of:
- Basic first aid
- How to report any emergency situation
- The procedure for emergency evacuation, including the type of evacuation and exit route assignments
- Training to recognize alarm system sounds to alert workers of emergencies (an alarm could be audible or verbal)
- Designated employees that may be required stay behind to continue critical operations (such as secure the site, shut down equipment, or keep critical equipment running to prevent damage)
- How to account for all employees after evacuation
- Procedures for employees performing rescue or medical duties
- Name or job title of employees to contact for plan information
Examples of potential workplace emergencies that all staff must be prepared for include:
- Fires and explosions
- Tornadoes and earthquakes
- Heavy equipment failures
- Confined space rescues
- Hazardous material incidents
- Cave-in rescues
- Fall arrest rescues
- Worker injuries
- Struck-by/caught-in incidents
- Medical emergencies
Site-specific emergency action plans must be in place for every jobsite. The EAP should be in easy-to-read type and posted in multiple locations across the jobsite so every worker has the opportunity to review as needed.
The basic EAP that is posted should include:
- Address and description of the site location
- Emergency response numbers for 911, fire department, police, emergency responders
- Name and address of nearest medical facilities
- Map to nearest medical facilities
Obviously the first instinct in any emergency is to call 911, but before any project starts, as the EAP is being developed, it is critical to verify that 911 is in effect in the area and to understand the emergency resources and facilities that are available for the specific jobsite.
Great tip! A copy of the most current EAP should be kept in every fleet vehicle.
Questions to consider include:
- What is the emergency response time for the job site?
- Is a high-angle rescue team available?
- How close is the nearest medical facility?
- What on-site emergency resources are available including first aid kits, fire extinguishers, spills containment equipment?
Be sure to inspect your first aid kits on a regular basis to ensure they are stocked properly and items are not expired.
To be effective, all workers should be trained on the current emergency action plan for the site and sufficiently understand their role during any emergency.
OSHA Standard 1926.35(e)(1) Before implementing the emergency action plan, the employer shall designate and train a sufficient number of persons to assist in the safe and orderly emergency evacuation of employees.
Workers should be trained on the EAP:
- Initially upon hire
- At the start of any project on a new site
- If the plan changes
- If designated persons’ duties change (If the designated person leaves the site for any reason, someone must be appointed as the team leader to initiate the EAP)
- Review the EAP with any new subcontractors on site.
- Review the EAP with suppliers to ensure it covers all delivery and storage hazards.
- Review the EAP with the job foreman or safety manager on a regular basis so the procedure remains current to the changes on the job site.
- Post the EAP is multiple places on the job site and remind crews to review regularly.
While all employees should be trained on the Emergency Action Plan for the specific job site that they are currently working in, here are some important points all workers should remember.
- Emergencies can be reported from any source including a worker on site, management on site, the local news, or the general public.
- Everyone on the job site should be aware of the Emergency Action Plan and familiarize themselves with the posted evacuation diagrams.
- All employees should know how to report an emergency situation.
- During any emergency drill, all employees should follow the evacuation procedure. No one stays behind!
- All employees must be aware of their role during any emergency situation. Most workers will follow evacuation or shelter-in-place safety procedures but some will have safety facilitator, medical rescue, or critical operations roles.
- When working indoors, emergency exits should be clearly labeled, lighted, and visible at all times. Emergency exits should NEVER be blocked, even temporarily.
- Assembly points at the exit discharge should be identified ahead of time and known by the employees.
- Workers should report to the designated assembly area immediately upon evacuation.
- No one should go home or to an offsite location other than the designated assembly area during an emergency evacuation.
If you need assistance in developing a EAP for your site, please reach out to your AGC safety management consultant.