June is National Safety Month, which aims to reduce leading causes of injury and death at work, on the road and in our homes and communities. The National Safety Council’s theme this year is No 1 Gets Hurt. Through its website, the organization offers downloadable resources aligned with a different safety topic each week: Emergency Preparedness, Wellness, Falls, and Driving.
As the Safety and Health Manager for Skillsoft, I love to see organizations take a proactive approach to any and all measures that can ensure a safe working environment for all their employees and customers.
Working in this area makes you painfully aware of the emotional, psychological and financial toll an accident can take on an individual and their family. We all know the statistics:
- Every day around 5,479 people die at work around the globe. That’s over 2 million a year
- 374 million nonfatal accidents occur requiring extended absences from work
And of course, the cost to business is huge. The annual cost to the global economy from work-related preventable accidents is $3 trillion.
What is also upsetting is discovering the number of organizations that despite all the warnings and research, still do not adequately prepare for an emergency and as a consequence put people at risk.
Preparing for an emergency begins with having a clearly defined set of steps, a process whereby everyone involved knows exactly what they need to do and in what order.
In other words, everyone should have, at a minimum, an Emergency Action Plan.
Emergency Action Plan (EAP)
As defined by OSHA, an EAP is:
“A written document required by particular OSHA standards. The purpose of an EAP is to facilitate and organize employer and employee actions during workplace emergencies. Well-developed emergency plans and proper employee training (such that employees understand their roles and responsibilities within the plan) will result in fewer and less severe employee injuries and less structural damage to the facility during emergencies. A poorly prepared plan likely will lead to a disorganized evacuation or emergency response, resulting in confusion, injury, and property damage.”
An EAP should cover all types of situations from fires to chemical spills to active shooters and violent attackers and should detail precisely how employees respond to the incident.
Planning an EAP must include:
- Specific worksite layouts
- Structural features
- Emergency systems
- Training so all employees know and understand not just the plan, but their roles and responsibilities that are part of the plan
While many organizations have an EAP that covers what to do in case of a fire or a chemical spill/hazardous materials, I wonder how many have included procedures for dealing with workplace violence.
Any act or threat of physical violence, harassment, intimidation, or other threatening, disruptive behavior that occurs at the work site is considered workplace violence and every year approximately two million workers are victims of such behavior. But that is not the complete picture as OSHA maintains that many such incidents go unreported for myriad reasons.
As you consider how to include guidelines and procedures for such situations, please be aware of the rising role of the active shooter and violent attacker in today’s modern workplace. In the US alone, 46% of all active shooter or violent attacker incidences occur at places of business.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) offers templates and in depth-comprehensive advice regarding the development of an active shooter EAP. If you are not familiar with this site, I suggest you go there now and become very familiar.
In general, the primary purpose is to prioritize employee safety. Keep management and stakeholders informed and engaged during the development of your EAP. Training, especially on a regular basis, is key to achieving this goal and experts recommend conducting active shooter drills as you would a fire drill. It is also essential that your local law enforcement is part of the design process. They will make recommendations, but importantly it is they who will respond to the alarm call and the more they are familiar with your building/office, the easier time they will have gaining access.
Your plan should also acknowledge how you will provide for employees after an incident. Considerations include who will contact family members, who is responsible for activating communications outlets for updated information, in charge of coordinating retrieval of personal belongings, who’ll organize grief counseling and connect employees with the Employee Assistance Program.
An EAP needs to be as comprehensive and all-inclusive as possible, so take the time, do the research and plan accordingly. Ensure that you have management stakeholder commitment to the plan because without it the likelihood of failure is high.
While not everyone is required to have a written EAP, and if you are in any doubt, check with OSHA, I can’t see any reason why a business would choose to leave themselves vulnerable to financial ruin, the risk of litigation or worse.
Have a plan and aim to ensure No 1 Gets Hurt. As part of making that plan, we recommend our Active Shooter Training, which we’ve made free to all – every school, workplace, and organization worldwide – to make sure everyone has the opportunity to receive comprehensive training.
Related Blog Post: Why Every Organization Needs a Business Continuity Plan
Donna McEntee is a Safety and Health Manager at Skillsoft.