So many things can go wrong at work. Spills, fires, natural disasters — these are just some of the most common hazards employees face every day. Without a safety response plan in place, protecting against those hazards can be tough.
That said, a safety response plan should be written carefully. It should also address most threats to worker safety while being flexible enough to account for unforeseen hazards at the same time. With that in mind, here’s how to put together a safety response plan and what information to include in it.
1. Brainstorm all possible safety hazards.
What are the worst-case scenarios in your workplace? For example, if you work in the construction industry, you have to protect against falls, getting caught between objects, getting struck by objects, and electrocution. If you’ve already accounted for the most common hazards, consider other possible dangers at work.
Comb through previous safety reports. Ask employees about what makes them uneasy at work. Research how other companies have successfully dealt with safety hazards like the ones in your workplace. The more hazards you can account for, the better your response plan will be.
2. Determine the scope of your plan.
At the same time, there should be a limit to what the safety response plan covers. Otherwise, the plan will never be finished and if it is, it might not be as focused as you’d like.
Think about whether the plan applies to day-to-day operations or to specific scenarios, or both. In construction, for example, emergency action plans are usually drawn up per project. You can write a more comprehensive plan if you like, but that’s up to you.
3. Come up with general emergency response procedures.
Of course, different safety hazards call for different measures, which should also be factored into your safety response plan. But in general, employees should remember the following when handling emergencies:
- Stay calm. A relaxed mind is a clear mind.
- Size up the situation. Is it a “real” emergency that needs special attention or a minor one that can be resolved without outside help?
- Take charge. Given the current situation, what are the next steps to take? Ideally, the most senior employee on the scene should make the first move.
- Offer protection. How can the emergency victim avoid further harm or injury?
- Aid and manage. How else can you help the victim?
- Maintain contacts. Always keep emergency numbers on speed dial.
- Guide emergency services. Once the people in charge of emergencies are on the field, bring them to the victim ASAP.
If there’s more than one type of emergency at any one time (e.g. oil spills that lead to fires), outline which one to address first in your plan. Consult with experts on how to handle multiple related emergencies. Use your best judgment on a case-by-case basis.
4. Establish a clear chain of command.
To whom should employees report an emergency? At least one person should be responsible for coordinating efforts to handle a crisis. In case that person happens to be unavailable, employees should have a backup contact to turn to. And if that backup is unavailable as well, employees should have another backup, and so on and so forth.
At the very least, employees should know the following about their emergency contacts:
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- Work address
- Contact number
5. Set up an emergency alert system.
You can only alert so many employees by word of mouth. To make sure everyone is warned as soon as an emergency happens, set up alarms that comply with OSHA standards set under Section 1910.165.
Don’t forget to account for employees with disabilities or employees who won’t be able to respond as soon as the alarms sound. Set up tactile alarm systems for them or come up with other ways to alert them that don’t involve audio or visual cues.
6. Make sure all personnel are accounted for when emergencies happen.
Where emergencies take place, confusion follows. Once the chaos settles down, do a headcount of all employees. This way, it’ll be easier to determine whether the emergency is an isolated incident or if there are other workers who need help.
7. Plan rescue and medical operations.
Train employees on basic first-aid and equip them with the necessary supplies. Put first-aid kits in places that are safely and easily accessible during an emergency. Make sure workers know where the kits are and what procedures they need to follow to access the kits, if any.
Keep in mind that even with training, you can only give so much help to emergency victims. It’s better to leave the more complicated rescue and medical operations to those who have the training, equipment, and certification to administer them. Be clear about who does what in your safety response plan.
8. Equip workers with the tools to deal with emergencies.
Aside from first-aid kits, employees should have the equipment to avoid emergencies from the start. In construction, for instance, workers are required to wear hard hats, safety goggles, and other special equipment to lessen the chances of injury and accidents.
Also, employees should know where to go in case of emergencies. They should know where fire exits are, what routes to take towards them, and any alternate routes if they exist. The more they know about these, the easier it’ll be for them to do the right thing when it counts.
9. Train employees to deal with emergencies.
Once the safety response plan is finalized, let employees know as soon as possible. Set aside a regular period to brief them on safety response procedures. Re-train them whenever the procedures are revised or a new employee arrives. Reward those who go out of their way to know the procedures inside and out.
10. Have your plan reviewed by a third party.
After wrapping up the draft of the safety response plan, have it looked at by reliable third parties. Check whether the plan complies with existing rules and regulations. Consult companies that deal with safety protocols in your industry.
With these tips, putting together a safety response plan shouldn’t be a problem. The more prepared you are, the safer your workers (and you) will be.
Dakota Safety specializes in providing passive fall protection systems and safety products for clients all across America. They are based in Saint Paul, Minnesota. If you have questions about safety in your facility? Give Dakota Safety a call today.