The most common workplace emergency is fire and the best way to prevent injuries and deaths from fires is to prevent fires in the first place. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), more than 75,000 workplace fires and related explosions occur each year.
Fire safety is the set of practices intended to reduce the destruction caused by fire. All companies should create a basic fire prevention plan for fire safety, which includes a list of the major workplace fire hazards and proper handling and storage procedures for those materials. The plan should also cover potential ignition sources, such as welding and smoking and related control procedures, as well as discuss the type of fire protection equipment or systems which can control a fire.
The fire prevention plan must include the names and/or regular job titles of those personnel responsible for maintenance of fire systems and those personnel responsible for control of fuel source hazards. Dangers of fire include heat, smoke, and toxic gases which all present some very nasty consequences for the personal welfare and life safety of individuals exposed to fire.
A workplace emergency is an unforeseen situation that threatens your employees and may shuts down your operations or causes physical or environmental damage.
Emergency Action Plan
An emergency action plan covers designated actions employers and employees must take to ensure employee safety from fire and other emergencies. Not all employers are required to establish an emergency action plan. Emergency action plan is a good way to protect yourself, your employees, and your business during an emergency.
Main Elements of an Emergency Action Plan
- Prevention: The policies and procedures to minimize the occurrence of emergencies or actions taken to avoid an incident. Deterrence operations and surveillance
- Mitigation: Refers to measures that prevent an emergency, reduce the chance of an emergency happening, or reduce the damaging effects of unavoidable emergencies.
- Preparedness: The activities and procedures to make sure your organization is ready to effectively respond
- Response: Actions carried out immediately before, during, and immediately after a hazard impact, which are aimed at saving lives, reducing economic losses, and alleviating suffering.
- Recovery: Actions taken to return a community to normal or near-normal conditions, including the restoration of basic services and the repair of physical, social and economic damages.
The Emergency Action Plan must include:
When developing the emergency action plan, it’s a good idea to look at a wide variety of potential emergencies that could occur in your workplace. It should be tailored to your worksite and include information about all potential sources of emergencies. Developing an emergency action plan means you should do a hazard assessment to determine what, if any, physical or chemical hazards in your workplaces could cause an emergency. If you have more than one worksite, each site should have an emergency action plan. The emergency action plan is of two types:
- On- Site Plan: (It is developed by the Employer or the Organization itself)
- Off- Site Plan: (It is developed by the Authority or a Government body)
According to the rule 13 and 14 of “The Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals Rules, 1989”. The Off-site and On- Site Emergency Plan must include:
An Employer should prepare an on-site emergency plan containing details mentioned below:
Details to be required in the On- Site Emergency Plan:
(i) Name and address of the person furnishing the information.
(ii) Key personnel of the organization and responsibilities assigned to them in case of an emergency.
(iii) Outside organizations if involved in assisting during on-site emergency.
(iv) Details of liaison arrangement between the organizations.
(v) Information on preliminary hazard analysis.
(vi) Details about the site.
(vii) Description of hazardous chemicals at plant site.
(viii) Likely dangers to the plant.
(ix) Enumerate effects of stress and strain during normal operations and fire and explosion inside the plant and effect if any of fire and explosion outside.
(x) Details regarding:
- Warning, alarm and safety and security systems
- Alarm and hazard control plans in line with disaster control and hazard control planning, ensuring necessary technical and Organizational precaution.
- Reliable measuring instruments, control units and servicing of such equipments.
- Precautions in designing of the foundation and load bearing parts of the building.
- Continuous surveillance of operations.
- Maintenance and repair work according to the generally recognized rules of goods engineering practices;
(xi) Details of communication facilities available during emergency and those required for an off-site emergency.
(xii) Details of firefighting and other facilities available and those required for an off-site emergency.
(xiii) Details of first aid and hospital services available and its adequacy.
An Employer must ensure:
A plan should include the name of the person who is responsible for safety on the site and the names of those who are authorized to take action in accordance with the plan in case of an emergency.
Emergency plan is updated and every person on the site who is affected by the plan is informed of its relevant provisions.
The Employer should prepare the emergency plan in case of a new industrial activity, before that activity is commenced or in the case of an existing industrial activity within 90 days of coming into operation of these rules.
Employer must ensure that a mock drill of the on-site emergency plan is conducted every six months.
A detailed report of the mock drill conducted should be send immediately to the concerned authority.
A Concerned authority should prepare an Off-site plan containing details mentioned below. How emergencies relating to a possible major accident on that site will be dealt with and in preparing that plan the concerned authority shall consult the occupier and such other persons as it may deem necessary.
Details to be required in the Off- Site Emergency Plan:
(i) The types of accidents and release to be taken into account.
(ii) Organization involved including key personnel and responsibilities and liaison arrangements between them.
(iii) Information about the site including likely locations of dangerous substances, personnel and emergency control rooms.
(iv) Technical information such as chemical and physical characteristics and dangers of the substances and plant.
(v) Identify the facilities and transport routes.
(vi) Contact for further advice e.g. meteorological information, transport, temporary food and accommodation, first aid and hospital services, water and agricultural authorities.
(vii) Communication links including telephones, radios and standby methods.
(viii) Special equipment including firefighting materials, damage control and repair items.
(ix) Details of emergency response procedures.
(x) Notify the public.
(xi) Evacuation arrangements.
(xii) Arrangements for dealing with the press and other media interests.
(xiii) Longer term clean up.
Concerned Authority must ensure:
- Emergency plan prepared for a new industrial activity, before that activity is commenced or in case of an existing industrial activity, within six months of coming into operation of these rules.
- A rehearsal of the off-site emergency plan is conducted at least once in a calendar year.
Alert Employees to an Emergency
Your plan must include a way to alert employees, including disabled workers, to evacuate or take other action, and how to report emergencies, as required. Among the steps you must take are the following:
Make sure alarms are distinctive and recognized by all employees as a signal to evacuate the work area or perform actions identified in your plan.
Make available an emergency communications system such as a public address system, portable radio unit, or other means to notify employees of the emergency and to contact local law enforcement, the fire department, and others.
Stipulate that alarms must be able to be heard, seen or otherwise perceived by everyone in the workplace.
Emergency Exits and Routes
In the case of a fire emergency, you want to get everyone out of the facility as quickly as possible. Emergency exits and routes are crucial because they provide a clear path to safety. Here are the qualities of effective emergency exits and routes:
- Must be a permanent part of the building
- Must be provided with a protected way of travel out of the building or out of the area
- May contain way of access of passageways, stairs, aisles and stairwells, ramps, or a series exit doors
- May have ways of access that lead from one area or floor to another or from one building to another
- Must be clear of obstructions
- Must be kept free of explosive or highly flammable furnishings and other decorations
- Must be strong enough to support their weight
- Must be properly lighted and marked with exit signs.
Employer should provide medical assistance during an emergency
Provide your employees with a written emergency medical procedure to minimize confusion during an emergency. If an infirmary, clinic, or hospital is not close to your workplace, ensure that onsite person(s) have adequate training in first aid. Consult with a physician to order appropriate first-aid supplies for emergencies. Medical personnel must be accessible to provide advice and consultation in resolving health problems that occur in the workplace. Establish a relationship with a local ambulance service so transportation is readily available for emergencies.
Employees Role in the Emergency Action Plan
The best emergency action plans include employees in the planning process, specify what employees should do during an emergency, and ensure that employees receive proper training for emergencies. When employees are include in planning, encourage them to offer suggestions about potential hazards, worst-case scenarios, and proper emergency responses.
After you develop the plan, review it with your employees to make sure everyone knows what to do before, during and after an emergency. Also it is very important to have ready access to important personal information about your employees.
Type of Training which the Employee needs
Educate your employees about the types of emergencies that may occur and train them in the proper course of action. The size of your workplace and workforce, processes used, materials handled, and the availability of onsite or outside resources will determine your training requirements. Be sure all your employees understand the function and elements of your emergency action plan, including types of potential emergencies, reporting procedures, alarm systems, evacuation plans, and shutdown procedures. Discuss any special hazards you may have onsite such as flammable materials, toxic chemicals, radioactive sources, or water-reactive substances. Clearly communicate to your employees who will be in charge during an emergency to minimize confusion.
General training for your employees should address the following:
- Individual roles and responsibilities.
- Threats, hazards, and protective actions.
- Notification, warning, and communications procedures.
- Means for locating family members in an emergency.
- Emergency response procedures and shutdown procedures.
- Evacuation, shelter, and accountability procedures.
- Location and use of common emergency equipment.
Also the employees should be trained in first-aid procedures, including protection against blood borne pathogens; respiratory protection, including use of an escape-only respirator; and methods for preventing unauthorized access to the site.
The Special Equipments which employees must have for Emergencies
Employees may need personal protective equipment to evacuate during an emergency. Personal protective equipment must be based on the potential hazards in the workplace. Assess your workplace to determine potential hazards and the appropriate controls and protective equipment for those hazards. Personal protective equipment may include items such as the following:
- Safety glasses, goggles, or face shields for eye protection
- Hard hats and safety shoes for head and foot protection.
- Proper respirators.
- Chemical suits, gloves, hoods, and boots for body protection from chemicals.
- Special body protection for abnormal environmental conditions such as extreme temperatures.
- Any other special equipment or warning devices necessary for hazards unique to your worksite.
Protect Workplace from fire
- Take out the Trash: A clean and tidy workplace helps combat a range of different threats, and if your workplace handles a lot of flammable material this could be the difference between a minor threat and a catastrophic blaze. Whether you’re dealing with oily rags or stacks of paper filing, make sure everything is stored safely and away from naked flames.
- Install fire detection systems: This is a legal requirement of all businesses. Some alarms may trigger automatically, but if they are manual be sure to teach employees how to operate them.
- Maintain Electrical Safety: A huge number of fires in workplace premises can be traced back to faulty wiring and electrical equipment. If your team contains someone qualified to repair electrical equipment, ensure they keep on top of any known issues.
- Store Chemicals Safely: Many workplaces might not feel this particular point applies to them, but flammable chemicals can be found in most workplaces in the form of printing supplies and the products stocked in your cleaner’s cupboard. Follow all documented advice which comes on both the label and any material safety data sheets you may have for these items.
- Prevent Ignition in Explosives area: Workplace environments containing high levels of flammable liquid vapour or fine particles are highly susceptible to ignition, and should be treated as such even when the flammable material is bottled, as with oxygen in nursing homes of hospitals. Avoid the use of sparking tools in such environments, control the emission of static electricity if possible, and always designate it a no-smoking area.
- Maintain Fire Safety Training: Knowing the best course of action in an emergency can help prevent major disasters and unnecessary loss of life and infrastructure, so it is imperative that all employees, both new and old; are retrained in your workplace’s fire safety procedures as often as possible.
- Hold Regular Drills: One of the most important parts of fire safety training concerns exit procedures in the event of fire. Make fire drills a regular part of your workplace schedule, and ensure that your employees treat each one with the respect it deserves.
- Keep Fire Safety Equipment Clear: Anything which may be needed in the event of a fire should not be obstructed or covered in any way at any time. This includes fire extinguishers shoved behind desks, fire escapes blocked by machinery, and sprinkler systems obstructed by decorations or other such material.
- Fit Relevant Equipment: Smoke alarms should be fitted throughout your building and tested at regular intervals, with their batteries replaced annually. You should also make sure that you have the right fire-fighting equipment relevant to the threats present in every room.
- Check Your Fire Extinguishers: Check the gauges in your fire extinguishers. If the extinguisher was inspected more than a month ago, arrange for maintenance. Encourage everyone to receive proper training for fire extinguisher use.
- Designate a Fire Warden: Your workplace should have one or more people in charge of monitoring fire safety and assisting with evacuations in the event of a fire. These people are known as fire wardens. They should receive training in fire safety awareness and what their role entails, as well as practical training in how to use fire-fighting equipment.
- Prepare an emergency plan: This should detail what employees must do if they discover a fire, the types of warning systems in place, and evacuation procedures.