It’s a workday like any other. Maybe you’re on your third cup of coffee or planning where to go for dinner after the “whistle blows.”

But suddenly the unexpected happens: an actual emergency situation.

Your heart starts beating faster. Do you panic? Or have you been prepared enough to know what actions to take?

In this week’s post I invite you to ask yourself:

Is my workplace ready for an Emergency?

The Oxford Dictionary tells us that an Emergency is:

a serious, unexpected, and often dangerous situation requiring immediate action.”

Organizations that have a robust safety culture develop Emergency Procedures, written into an Emergency Plan, as part of their overall Occupational Health & Safety obligation.

Of course, not every possible event that could impact a business can be planned for.

Just think about those businesses which were hurt when an explosion ripped apart a restaurant on Vancouver’s West Broadway several years ago.

Could any of them have predicted that would happen?

Not likely.

However, many emergencies are much more predictable and can therefore be planned for. But even if they’re not, we must still know what to do. It’s imperative that workplaces have a plan for those emergencies that can have a wider impact.

Special procedures are needed for such emergencies as serious injuries, explosion, flood, poisoning, electrocution, fire, release of radioactivity, and chemical spills.

Quick and effective action may mean the difference between panicked chaos and a controlled situation with a reduction of troubling consequences.

Keep in mind that people are more likely to respond reliably in emergencies if they:

  1. Are well trained and competent
  2. Take part in regular and realistic practice exercises and drills
  3. Have clearly agreed, recorded, and rehearsed plans, actions, and responsibilities

So I’ll ask again:

Is your workplace ready for an Emergency?

Leaders in organizations can do a great deal to develop and promote that sense of safety in the workplace.

After all, having a well-developed emergency response plan is just one way to demonstrate that they take their responsibility to provide a safe workplace seriously.

The following aspects need to be considered when writing such a plan:

  • Emergencies that might happen and how the alarm will be raised—don’t forget about night and shift workers and weekends and times when the premises are closed.
  • Planning what to do— including how to call the emergency services (Tip: help them by clearly marking your premises from the road).
  • Deciding where to go to reach a place of safety or to get rescue equipment. You must also provide suitable forms of emergency lighting.
  • Making sure there are enough emergency exits for everyone to escape quickly, and keeping emergency doors and escape routes unobstructed and clearly marked.
  • Nominating competent people to take control (a competent person is someone with the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience to manage health and safety).
  • Deciding which other key people you need— such as someone who can provide technical and other site-specific information, or first-aiders.
  • Planning essential actions such as an emergency shutdown, isolation, or making processes safe. Clearly identify important items like shut-off valves and electrical isolators, etc.
  • Training everyone in emergency procedures— don’t forget the needs of people with disabilities and vulnerable workers.
  • Note: Work should not resume after an emergency if a danger remains and if there are any doubts. Ask for assistance from the emergency services.

It may sound overwhelming but it’s part of what every employee wants and expects to experience in a workplace that genuinely cares about their well-being.

Every organization will have a policy statement proclaiming that they care about worker safety. However, if that statement is not demonstrated through an emergency plan that everyone is aware of and participates in via exercises and drills, then it’s little more than lip-service.

Also, every Emergency Plan will (should) have an ‘assumption statement’ within the first few paragraphs of the document, such as:

The effectiveness of this plan is based on the following assumptions:

  1. All staff are aware of their personal responsibilities identified in this plan.
  2. The plan is treated as a living document, with annual reviews and updates.
  3. Identified personnel are adequately trained on their responsibilities in this plan.
  4. Specified equipment and supplies are available and functioning when needed.
  5. Regular exercises and drills are conducted on the plan and related procedures.
  6. Personnel follow the practices, procedures and guidelines identified through this plan.

And once more I ask:

Is your workplace ready for an Emergency?

The point here is that there is always more that we can and should be doing to continue the journey towards a robust safety culture.

It’s a journey that never ends and it never should.

If we ever get to a place where we say to each other “We’ve done enough, we can stop now,” then we run the risk of complacency setting in.

So, let’s continue to plan for those things that we know might and could happen…and if we do that, chances are we’ll know how to handle it and eliminate more unthinkable circumstances.

Remember: Safety Hates Complacency

Are you ready?