I’m sure you are all aware that safety is about stopping averse incidents from happening. We do that by identifying the hazard, then removing the hazard completely or minimizing the possibility of the hazard from occurring, thereby moving toward a zero incident workplace. This is better known as a pro-active approach to safety and it takes time to reach. To protect your employees and your company assets along the journey to an incident free environment, you must ensure that your company has necessary tools to minimize any hazards that may surface. The Emergency Action Program is one of the many tools available.

Emergency Action Program (EAP) contains a series of instructions and actions to be taken in the event of an emergency. They give detailed instructions, chain of command, emergency contact information, and emergency specific instructions for any event that is not part of your normal operational procedures.

A Disaster Recovery Program, which can also be part of your EAP, gives detailed instructions to maintain and recover critical operations after an emergency as occurred. For example, employee/family counseling, environmental recovery, or critical company operation recovery. The emergency action plan and the disaster recovery plan are two very different documents. One is for preventing the loss of life and limb, the other is recovering your business. For this article, we are going to focus on emergency planning and the emergency action program.

The events covered under the EAP depend on your business, your employees, your location, and the hazards you face. Topics can include: Injuries, fire, flood, severe storms, bomb threats, chemical releases, workplace violence, suicide threats, power outages, gas leaks, and explosions or anything else that would be considered an immediate threat to life, health, and/or the property of your facility and the surrounding community. You may also include specialized topics to cover medical requirements such as heart conditions, or diabetes, although, it’s not advisable from a legal standpoint. It is important to note, that it is illegal to release private medical conditions of individual employees (if known by the company) without express written consent of that employee. It is also illegal to ask an employee to reveal any medical conditions that do not pertain to employment.

The contents of the EAP is usually broken down as:

  • Purpose of the program
  • Table of contents – EAP’s can get very long depending on your operation. It’s important to be able to find critical information fast.
  • Distribution of the program – Who has copies and where a copy can be found. As a note you should ensure that all managers, your insurance company, medical facilities, police, fire, ambulance companies, and local governments all have copies of your EAP.
  • Date and version of the EAP – The EAP should be reviewed every year for relevance and updated immediately upon a change of any material covered. Remember to train all employees on the changes.
  • General description of the physical layout of your facility, acreage, entrances and exits and security devices to include number codes, by-pass codes and location of breakers to the security systems if installed. Include maps showing evacuation routes, fire suppression equipment, first aid and medical supplies, assembly areas, chemical storage areas and inventories, names of roadways in the general area.
  • Written directions to your facility from all major highways or roadways.
  • Directions, maps, phone numbers, and point of contacts to nearest medical facilities from your location. You can attach 5 to 10 copies of these on the back of the EAP so they can easily be torn off and given to arriving family members of injured employees, or ambulance crews.
  • Chain of command, contact information, and assigned responsibilities for all personnel assuming responsibility during the emergency. Include the personnel acting as liaisons to EMS, government authorities and the media. You may also include lists of qualified First Aid/CPR employees, First Responder and HAZMAT teams if used by your company.
  • Alarm locations and a description of the alarm sound/device and how personnel will be alerted to an emergency. Include procedures in the event of the alarm needs to be sounded and who is responsible.
  • If the facility uses radio communications – Include alarm words and meanings, and emergency frequencies.
  • Specific topics, instructions and actions to be taken by the employees for every type of emergency covered. This is the heart of the EAP. Ensure the entire workforce is given clear instructions in the event of any emergency to include office personnel and personnel outside hazardous areas. For example, grounds keepers and neighbors.
  • Critical equipment shut down instructions, checklists, and locations to include valve locations for stored chemicals and who is responsible.
  • Complete employee roster of all current employees including work shifts they are on, normal work area, assembly location they evacuate to, and supervisor they report to.
  • Hazardous Chemical inventory, maximum storage amounts, and their major hazards. For example the location and size of all natural gas and propane tanks. Also include any corrosive storage areas and respiratory hazard chemicals no matter the amount. Location of your MSDS library can also be added to this section.
  • Training requirements – for all employees and for specialized employee requirements. For example internal HAZMAT/First Responder Teams.

After you have complied the information and written the program, the most important step, and the only way the program will work, is to get the information out to ALL affected personnel. You must plan to train on it regularly. The more experience employees have with the procedures, the easier they will be to implement and less panic they will face when needed. Have your supervisors discuss a part of the plan at every work meeting.

OSHA has made part of this mandatory for all employers by instituting mandatory evacuation (fire) drills, and fire extinguisher training at least once a year. New employees must be trained on the EAP as part of their new hire training before beginning normal employment.

Lastly, ensure that you have a copy(s) posted in your hazardous areas and in your main employee work and break areas where your employees will know where they are.

If your company is interested in establishing an Emergency Action Program or you have one that you would like to update, feel free to give PINE a call.

Emergency Action Program (EAP) contains a series of instructions and actions to be taken in the event of an emergency. They give detailed instructions, chain of command, emergency contact information, and emergency specific instructions for any event that is not part of your normal operational procedures.