Safety Tip: Emergency Planning Will Save Lives

By Eric Stiles posted 05-04-2017 09:31


Annually, the nation records a number of serious catastrophes involving property damage, injuries, or death to large numbers of people. These disasters can be caused by “acts of God” including:  tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, or earthquakes. They also may be the result of human shortcomings including:  fires and explosions, or civil strife.

In many cases personal injury and loss of life have been greatly increased because of panic and confusion. An emergency action plan, properly organized and implemented, can reduce the number and severity of injuries and property damage.


Purpose of Emergency Planning

The purpose of a disaster plan is to have a working plan for meeting an emergency situation. The plan need not be elaborate, but must be effective, efficient, and workable for your organization. Major considerations in planning for disaster control must include: provisions for protecting personnel, evacuating both injured and uninjured, and care of the incapacitated.

The whole purpose of an evacuation plan is to avoid panic through an organized approach. The plan should give people in a state of confusion the proper direction for orderly withdrawal from a disastrous situation.


Planning Process

The effectiveness of response during emergencies depends on the amount of planning and training performed. It is your responsibility to see that a program is instituted and that it is frequently reviewed and updated. Solicit the input and support of all employees. The emergency response plan should be comprehensive enough to deal with all types of anticipated emergencies. When emergency action plans are required by a particular Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA) standard, the plan must be in writing. Regardless of OSHA’s requirement or the size of your business, your Emergency Response plan should always be in writing. Along with having a written plan, all requirements should be communicated to employees and include the following elements:

  • Emergency escape procedures and route assignments
  • Procedures for prompt evacuation and protection of employees with injuries or disabilities
  • Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to perform (or shut down) critical plant operations before they evacuate
  • Procedures to account for all employees after emergency evacuation has been completed
  • Rescue and medical duties for those employees who are trained and designated to perform them
  • The preferred means for reporting fires and other emergencies
  • Names or regular job titles of persons or departments to be contacted for further information or explanation of duties under the plan


The emergency action plan should address all potential emergencies that can be expected in your workplace. Therefore, it will be necessary to perform a hazard audit to determine toxic materials used, related hazards, and potentially dangerous conditions. For information on chemicals, the manufacturer or supplier can be contacted to obtain Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). These forms describe the hazards that a chemical may present, list precautions to take when handling, storing, or using the substance, and outline emergency and first aid procedures.

List, in detail, procedures to be taken by those employees who must remain behind to care for essential operations until their evacuation becomes absolutely necessary. This may include monitoring power supplies, water supplies, and other essential services that cannot be shut down for every emergency alarm and/or use of portable fire extinguishers.

For emergency evacuation, include the use of floor plans or workplace maps, which clearly show the emergency escape routes and safe or refuge areas. Inform all employees what actions they must take in emergency situations that may occur in your workplace, including meeting in designated locations after evacuation.

Review your plan with employees once the plan is developed, whenever the employees’ responsibilities under the plan change, and whenever the plan is changed. Keep a copy where employees can refer to it at convenient times and provide copies to all new and existing employees.


Key elements that should be outlined in your plan are:


  • Chain of Command
  • Communication Channels
  • Emergency Response Team Responsibilities
  • Proper Training for All Areas of Safety
  • Proper Personal Protection Usage
  • Confined Space Entry and Emergency Exits
  • How to Contact Emergency Assistance Immediately
  • How to Secure a Hazardous Area


For any emergency plan to be fully effective, it should be available in printed form and distributed to those responsible for its execution.  The plan should be presented and explained to all employees. This can be done through a general meeting or smaller meetings held by supervisors. Instruct all new employees about exit regulations, evacuation plans, and appropriate response actions.

Use employee bulletins and company publications to keep employees informed of program developments within the company. An informed group is more likely to respond to an emergency appropriately.


Remember, in an emergency, the preservation of life and property depends on how well you are prepared to act promptly and properly to a situation.  


Article provided by Sentry Insurance, MTI’s Official Business Insurance Carrier.  Sentry has an entire division dedicated to the metalworking industry.  If you would like a free analysis of your business insurance and worker’s compensation, contact Eric Stiles at