November 27, 2001
How To Handle A Workplace Emergency
By Maureen Alvarez, CIH, CSP
Most of your safety training teaches
you how to do your job safely on a day-to-day basis. But
what about those rare times when something goes seriously
wrong? Would you know how to respond?
Emergency preparedness is an important
part of your job safety training.
What is an emergency? It is an unexpected,
potentially harmful occurrence. It could be an injury incident,
a severe illness, a chemical spill, a fire, flood or storm,
an assault or other incident.
Your company should have a plan to
deal with various types of emergencies. Certain personnel
may be appointed and trained to respond to these emergencies.
No matter what your job is, make sure you know your part in
your companies emergency response plan.
The following is a checklist to
help you learn what to do in the event of an emergency:
- Find out who to contact to get help in an
emergency. Emergency numbers should be posted at each telephone.
In many areas dialing 9-1-1 puts you in touch with a number
of emergency services, but find out if this is the case
in your work area.
- Know the address of your workplace - and
how to give directions to get there - in case you have to
call for emergency help. The emergency responders will
need your name and the phone number at your location as
well. When called to a large plant, fire fighters or ambulance
crews can waste valuable time searching for the exact location
of the emergency.
- It is a good idea to direct the emergency
personnel to a main entrance where one of your employees
can take them directly to the incident.
- Find out who to contact within the company
in case of an emergency. Do you have an Emergency Preparedness
Manager? Is there an internal fire brigade, Hazmat team
or emergency response team? Who is in charge of medical
- Know the location of emergency equipment.
This may include fire extinguishers, break-glass alarms,
first aid kits, safety showers, eye wash stations, chemical
spill control materials and others.
- Learn how to operate any emergency equipment
which you may have to use. Know which kinds of fire extinguishers
to use on various kinds of fires. Make sure you know how
to use the safety shower and eye wash station - even if
you are frightened and temporarily blinded by a chemical
- Learn CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation),
as well as basic first aid. These skills sometimes make
the difference between life and death when incidents occur,
both at work and off the job.
- Make sure you know where to find the MSDS
(Material Data Safety Sheet) for any chemical used in the
workplace. These sheets provide valuable information which
you will need in case of an accidental chemical exposure
- Know the evacuation route from your work
area. Find at least two exits ahead of time. Also find
out where you are supposed to assemble with your co-workers
after you have left the building.
To Find Emergency Exits
We pass them every day, but how
many of us really see them? Doors with an "Exit"
sign may not be interesting, but they are vital to your well-being.
Emergency exits are essential
to escape from:
- Fires, either inside the building or in the
- Explosions caused by gas leaks or chemical
- Power outages caused by natural disasters
or internal electrical problems.
- Building collapse or major structural failure.
- Release of toxic substances or spills of
- Natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes
Several of these events may happen
in a sequence as one triggers another. An explosion may start
a fire and cause structural damage in one part of a building.
The fire may also cause a loss of electrical power, plunging
your work area into darkness. Bearing this in mind, emergency
exits probably seem a lot more important to you now.
Make it a personal safety habit
to know the location of at least two emergency exits at all
times. This applies off the job as well as on the job. No
matter where you are in a building, even if you are just passing
through, look for two emergency exits. However, this does
not include elevators. You should never use an elevator during
a fire emergency.
What can you do to ensure the
emergency exits in your work area are safe?
- Keep exits clear. Don't use them as storage
areas, not even temporarily.
- Doors should be secured to prevent unauthorized
entry from the outside, but not to prevent employees from
exiting in emergencies.
- Report to your supervisor any structural
problems which may effect an emergency exit route. Look
for broken hand railings, loose stair treads, and doors
which do not open easily.
- Also check for burned out light bulbs in
the overhead fixtures. Report them to your maintenance department
so they will be replaced.
- Lighted exit signs should be in good working
order, and have a battery backup in case of a power failure.
- Never store flammable liquids or combustible
products near or under an exit or stairway.
- Emergency exits should be properly labeled.
Doors which lead to a storeroom or closet should also be
correctly labeled so that you don't become confused during
- Pathways and aisles leading to your escape
routes should be clean and well-maintained. Don't use aisles
or traffic areas for storing stock or equipment.
- Perhaps you have physical disabilities which
make it difficult for you to use some types of emergency
exits. In that case, do you know which exits you can use?
Is there another employee in your work area who can assist
you when required?
- Knowing your exit routes helps eliminate
Knowing what to do in case
of an emergency can help prevent panic and it can save lives.
Learn your part in emergency procedures.
For additional information regarding
Emergency Preparedness please check out these links to FEMA
(Federal Emergency Management Agency) at http://www.fema.gov/ and the US EPA at http://www.epa.gov/swercepp/.
Copyright © 2001 by WorkCare™
All Rights Reserved
See you next month,