If you have a small staff and the size of your site is easily manageable, developing a comprehensive emergency action plan for one location may not be a difficult task. However, ensuring compliant and site-specific emergency action plans for multiple locations and an exponential number of employees can be a challenge.
Any business with more than 10 onsite employees is likely to require an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) by the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but what happens when your company has multiple locations? Why should these plan be a priority and how do you confirm compliance for each location?
What is an Emergency Action Plan?
An EAP is intended to guide employer and employee actions, such as evacuation, during workplace emergencies. These plan are typically utilized when an onsite fire brigade is not in place. At a minimum, an EAP must include the following requirements:
- Means of reporting fires or other emergencies
- Evacuation procedures, including exit route assignments
- Procedures for employees who remain to operate critical operations before they evacuate
- Procedures to account for all employees after evacuation
- Procedures to be followed by employees performing rescue or medical duties
- The name or job title of every employee who may be contacted
While not required for compliance, OSHA also suggests:
- Description of the alarm system that informs employees to take certain actions
- The site of an alternative communications center
- A secure location to store originals or duplicate copies of accounting records, legal documents, your employees' emergency contact lists, and other essential records.
Why Prioritize Emergency Action Plans?
According to the 2016 OSHA Field Operations Manual, any employer who willfully or repeatedly violates regulations may be assessed a civil penalty of at least $8,908 for each willful violation. The exponential violation cost for companies with multiple locations could be staggering and financially crippling.
As agencies continue to redefine their monetary penalties and prioritize employee safety issues, companies must not rely on the prospect of an agency inspection to ensure preparedness programs are sufficient. For companies with multiple locations, the EAP details should be part of an overall emergency management program and create an atmosphere of response readiness. Each plan should identify site-specific actions by employers, employees, or other building occupants to ensure safety from fire emergencies and other potentially devastating scenarios.
If government regulations are applicable to your facilities or operations, your enterprise must prioritize compliance and associated management techniques in order to minimize financial burdens resulting from fines, negative public perceptions, and potential government mandated shutdown of operations.
How to Confirm EAP Compliance?
When company operations span across multiple locations, compliance verification in addition to daily operational oversight can become increasingly complicated. The cost to initiate, upgrade, and/or maintain a proactive EHS program may be seen as a excessive and possibly trivial company expense. However, compliance efforts and compliance tracking software programs are often less expensive than agency fines. By confirming regulatory compliance, companies can deliberately protect lives, prevent hazardous impacts, limit property damage, and eliminate increasing regulatory fines.
Effective technology can be a useful and relatively inexpensive tool for companies to monitor continually evolving operations and regulatory requirements. While many businesses utilize Excel spreadsheets to manage these requirements, the technique is burdensome, administratively taxing, and often ineffective for mid to large size companies. As companies grow and expand, the number of spreadsheets can be extensively overwhelming and complex. Midsize and larger operations should consider utilizing database technology to ensure enterprise-wide compliance on multiple government agency fronts.
In order to minimize non-compliance, owners should identify potential emergency scenarios and necessary site-specific safety measures, including those required in OSHA’s EAP.
A comprehensive response planning system should identify the resources required to effectively manage potential hazards, document necessary response actions, and fulfill multiple compliance mandates. Upgrading to web-based response planning software will enable each location across an enterprise to;
- Reduce the need for multiple plans
- Minimize administrative costs
- Simplify plan reviews
- Minimize discrepancies across various plans
- Streamline response directives from one source