A well-defined plan for dealing with major emergencies is an essential component of OH&S programs.
Aside from the obvious benefit of providing guidance during an emergency, developing the plan has additional benefits. You may discover previously unknown hazardous conditions that would exacerbate an emergency situation and work to eliminate them. The planning process may reveal flaws, such as a lack of resources (equipment, trained personnel, supplies), or items that can be addressed before an emergency occurs. Furthermore, an emergency plan raises safety awareness and demonstrates the organization’s commitment to worker safety.
The absence of an emergency plan could result in severe losses, such as multiple casualties and the organization’s financial collapse.
Because emergencies will occur, it is necessary to plan ahead of time. During an emergency, an urgent need for quick decisions, a lack of time, and a lack of resources and trained personnel can all lead to chaos. Because of the time and circumstances of an emergency, normal channels of authority and communication cannot be relied on to function routinely. The stress of the situation can lead to poor judgment, which can result in significant losses. A well-thought-out, well-organized emergency response plan will aid in the abolition of these problems.
An emergency plan specifies procedures for dealing with sudden or unexpected events.
The goal is to be prepared to:
Prevent deaths and injuries.
Reduce the amount of damage to buildings, stock, and equipment.
Safeguard the environment and the community.
Increase the speed with which normal operations can be resumed.
The plan’s development begins with a vulnerability assessment. The study’s findings will reveal:
The likelihood of a situation occurring.
What options are there to stop or prevent the situation?
What is required in a given situation.
This analysis can be used to develop appropriate emergency procedures.
It is critical that the appropriate individuals or groups be invited to participate during the planning stage. The team may consist of the following individuals:
employees who are familiar with the job
supervisor in charge of a specific area or job
officer in charge of safety
Committee on Health and Safety
If applicable, a union representative
employees with investigative experience
a representative from the local government, the police, the fire department, or the ambulance service
Other organizations should be consulted as needed, especially if your organization’s plan calls for the use of outside resources such as fire, police, or ambulance. In some cases, one organization may form joint response teams with neighboring organizations.
Communication, training, and periodic drills will help ensure that the plan is carried out correctly in all situations. Other authorities may have jurisdiction in some cases, such as if a serious injury or death occurred. Your organization should develop, implement, and maintain a procedure for coordinating incident management with the authority with jurisdiction (e.g., police, OH&S inspectors, etc.). The authority may take control of the incident scene as part of this coordination.
Although emergencies are by definition unexpected, their occurrence can be predicted with some accuracy. The first step is to determine which hazards pose a risk to your company.
Because major emergencies are uncommon, records of previous incidents and occupational experience are not the only sources of useful information. Consultation with similar organizations, fire departments, insurance companies, engineering consultants, and government departments can help to broaden knowledge of both technological (chemical or physical) and natural hazards.
After identifying the hazards, the potential major consequences of each should be listed, such as:
Sequential events (for example, a fire after an explosion).
Damage to plant infrastructure.
Loss of vital records/documents.
Damage to equipment.
Disruption of work.
The necessary actions are determined based on these events. As an example:
Sound the alert.
Evacuate danger zone.
Close main shutoffs.
Call for external aid.
Initiate rescue operations.
Attend to casualties.
Consider the resources required as well as their location, such as:
Auxiliary communication equipment.
Chemical and radiation detection equipment.
Emergency protective clothing.
Fire fighting equipment.