The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires employers with 10 or more workers to have a written emergency action plan. The plan is initially reviewed by employees upon hire and periodically on a continuous basis should the plan or the employee responsibilities change. OSHA also clearly defines the expectations and roles for workplace emergency response teams and their members. Workplace emergencies can range from natural disasters to man-made threats. Measures should be in place to protect workers, operations, and infrastructure. Being prepared for emergency situations and providing training to emergency response members in the workforce is vital to risk mitigation and keeping employees safe.
Emergency response members should be willing and physically able to perform duties associated with emergency situations including, but not limited to, caring for ill or injured employees, identification of hazards, evacuation protocols, notification of emergency services, directing workplace operation shutdown, and natural disaster response. Members on the emergency response team should have training that encompasses a variety of situations/crises, and the appropriate response to each. Training may include:
- Roles, responsibilities of emergency response team members.
- Threats and hazard identification. Examples of potential hazards/threats include chemical, biological (e.g., bloodborne pathogen exposures), ergonomic, nuclear, explosive, natural disaster and weather (earthquakes, floods, heat, hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, wildfires, winter weather).
- Communication protocol.
- Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
- Location of and training on commonly used emergency equipment.
- Appropriate use of fire extinguishers.
- First aid, CPR, and AED.
- Control measures for chemical spills, hazardous material.
- Evacuation and shelter procedures.
- Search and rescue protocol.
- Contacting family members.
After initial training of emergency response members, training should occur after new workers are hired, purchasing of new equipment/materials/processes in the workplace that could impact previous training, changes to job roles/duties, facility layout design changes, and updates to procedures. Employers should reinforce emergency preparedness through annual training.
Emergency response team members should be available during all shifts at each workplace location. Trained team members decrease the impact of hazardous situations and promote a safe, healthy workplace culture.
OSHA Industry Standards
OSHA also has general industry standards, requirements for emergency response and preparedness. Exit routes, access to fire extinguishers, acceptable alarm system features, action plan requirements, maintenance, safeguards, and fire prevention plans are detailed on the OSHA website.
The following are helpful emergency response preparedness resources:
- How to Plan for Workplace Emergencies and Evacuations, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), U.S. Department of Labor (DOL)
- Emergency Response Resources, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
- Prepare Your Workplace and Employees. American Red Cross (ARC)
- Get Started: Emergency Preparedness Checklist for Small Business. American Red Cross (ARC)
- Disaster Preparedness, Small Business Administration (SBA)
- OSHA provided guidance documents
- Publications provided by OSHA
- OSHA Bloodborne pathogen factsheet
- OSHA QuickCards
“Emergencies and Evacuations,” 2001.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “Bloodborne Pathogens and Hazard Communications Standards,” 2003.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “Develop & Implement an Emergency Action Plan.”
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “Emergency Preparedness and Response.”
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “Emergency Preparedness and Response: Getting Started.”
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “How to Plan for Workplace
Occupational Safety and Health Administration.”
“OSHA Fact Sheet: Planning and Responding to Workplace Emergencies,” 2004.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration, “Principal Emergency Response and Preparedness,” 2004.
The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, “Emergency Preparedness for Business,” November 30, 2018.