It is impossible to predict when a disaster is going to strike. However, being in construction, it’s safe to say you must be prepared for anything at anytime. Therefore, it is very important to be educated on what can best help you prepare for an emergency when it is least expected. 

Occupational Safety and Health Administration OSHA has mapped out a guideline and plan of action for construction workers to take in the event of an emergency. This way, workers can best handle whatever is thrown their way in an organized, professional, and calm fashion. 

First, it is important to establish what is classified as a workplace emergency. OSHA defines a workplace emergency as a situation that threatens workers, customers, or the public; disrupts or shuts down operations; or causes physical or environmental damage. Emergencies may be natural or man-made, and may include hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, wildfires, winter weather, chemical spills or releases, disease outbreaks, releases of biological agents, explosions involving nuclear or radiological sources, and many other hazards. 

What is an Emergency Action Plan? 

An EAP is a written plan to protect workers during emergencies and it includes all of the standard safety protocols that a company must take. Other actions to be prepared for not included in the EAP include:

1) Posting emergency numbers in the workplace for the fire brigade, fire department, and other appropriate emergency responders

2) Arranging training drills regularly for workers to practice emergency procedures together

3) Coordinating tours for firefighters and external emergency responders to learn about the facilities processes

4) Make sure the alarms sounds are distinctive for the different actions required to be taken

How do you notify workers of an emergency?

  • Employers must ensure that alarms are distinctive and recognized by all workers as a signal to evacuate the work area or perform actions identified in the plan including disabled workers

Evacuation Coordinator

Having an evacuation coordinator is very important in a time of chaos and disruption. This person must be able to give clear and concise orders so that there is no confusion amongst those at the site. The coordinator is also responsible for ensuring that the local fire department or emergency medical service are available and must coordinate and communicate with them. Basically, they are the head authority of the event and will direct orders to everyone else.

Basic training Workers Need to Know:

  • Ensure that all workers understand the function and elements of the emergency action plan, including types of potential emergencies, reporting procedures, alarm systems, evacuation plans, and shutdown procedures.
  • Discuss any special hazards on site such as flammable materials, toxic chemicals, radioactive sources, or water-reactive substances.
  • Clearly identify and communicate to workers specifically who will be in charge during an emergency to minimize confusion.

Ensuring that workers are educated and prepared for an emergency is so important and can save many lives. With an organized emergency action plan, strong leadership, clear communication, and practice drills – workers will feel much more prepared in the chance an emergency arises. 

Article adapted from: https://www.osha.gov/SLTC/emergencypreparedness/gettingstarted.html