Just like a Job Hazard Assessment (JHA) is a way to develop every day employee safe work practices, an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is planning for possible workplace emergencies. And like a JHA, the EAP has a series of cornerstones – development, authority, training, and maintenance – to build upon and is specific to the workplace while having some recognizable commonalities (e.g. evacuation plan, shelter in place, and fire prevention).

Don’t assume that all workers will make the safe choice in the face of an emergency.

A trash fire may be something an employee may try to put out on his own but without the training to know when its past the incipient stage where it can easily be put out they can put themselves and others in danger by delaying warning everyone else.

EAP Cornerstones

That’s why it’s important to take the time to develop a plan that writes out what employees should do in each possible emergency. Use the workers experience to get a first-hand opinion of what the hazards and worst case scenarios are and possible responses.

Part of every EAP is identifying everybody’s responsibility including the person whose job it is to execute an EAP and evacuation procedures. The coordinator’s authority includes deciding there is an emergency, activating and overseeing emergencies procedures and contacting other emergency services such as the police or fire department.

Ensuring employees are trained in all elements of the EAP that affect them is another important component. They may need to know: their responsibilities, workplace hazards, possible notifications, response procedures such as evacuating or sheltering, location of available emergency equipment, and anything they need to shut down.

In order to be considered current any assessment or plan has to be maintained. Maintenance can mean: regular reviews; updates that incorporate new workplace conditions, equipment, or materials; information to outside emergency responders, evacuation drills, and ongoing training for new and current employees.

Common Elements

No matter how unique or safe the workplace is, it is going to include common elements such as: an evacuation procedure, shelter in place procedure, and a fire prevention plan. If an office has a workplace violence situation where a disgruntled current or former employee go to work threatening violence it may be necessary to evacuate the building getting the employees to a safer location while alerting the police. There are also situations where that same office, located in an industrial park where a rail line travels nearby, may want to have an interior room where all employees will have to report to and shelter-in-place because a car has derailed nearby and is leaking hazardous material.

Fire Prevention Plan

Every EAP needs a fire prevention plan that at least meets the OSHA requirements detailed in 29 CFR 1910.39. Think of a fire prevention plan as a compact EAP with its own four components: required lists, maintenance and control procedures, assigned responsibilities, and providing training. The required lists include identifying: major fire hazards, hazardous material handling and storage procedures, ignition sources and how to control them, and the needed fire protection equipment provided for the hazards. Control procedures include housekeeping to prevent the accumulation of flammable or combustible materials. Elements that need to be regularly maintained are the safeguards on heat producing equipment so that combustible materials don’t ignite. And just like the larger EAP, every employee needs to know their responsibilities and who has the authority to assign them. Fire prevention plan specific responsibilities include maintaining equipment to prevent ignition, and who controls the fuel sources. Fire prevention training must have the potential fire hazards and how the worker will protect themselves.

Additional Resources

There are ways to get even more specific guidance on creating an EAP than this survey. For example, OSHA provides instruction and checklists to help businesses get started, and OSHA state plans may provide additional state specific guidance and other consensus standard establishing organizations that even OSHA defers to on specific criteria like the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) can be referenced.

Other Safety School articles that examine the more academic concepts of occupational safety:

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