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Plan Ahead: Enhance Emergency Safety

By Christine Torres

Glow in the dark fire exit floor signs

From a worker collapsing in a warehouse to a structure-devouring chemical fire, emergencies can happen at any time, on large or small scales. Every workplace has the potential for something unexpected to occur and, perhaps, unique to the job site. Fires are one of the most common workplace emergencies. In the event of an emergency, do workers know important steps to take or how to escape the workplace? For efficient and effective emergency prevention, preparing, planning ahead, and continuous training can help.

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Jim LaMorte of Smart Risk Control, Inc. assists in coordinating workshops on hazard risk in Victoria, Canada. “There is an added benefit of confidence among the workers if they have some training in emergency response,” he said. “They definitely get the impression that management cares about their well-being.”

One of the most common emergency situations in workplaces is fire. According to the National Fire Prevention Association, fire departments responded to 1,319,500 fires and about one structure fire every 63 seconds in 2017. Training for fire safety in the workplace is important, according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Workers should know what equipment to use, where it is in the facility, and how to use it. They should also be able to get to emergency equipment, stations, and exits with ease.

According to OSHA, common workplace violations that are life-threatening hazards are exposing workers to fire and blocking exits. In September, a company in Texas was cited by OSHA for exposing employees to fire and explosion hazards. In December, OSHA cited a parts distribution company in Georgia for having blocked exits and unmarked and unlit emergency exits among other serious worker fire safety hazards. For workplaces, OSHA standards require that exits be easily accessible and seen. Facility managers can achieve this by:

  • Marking exit routes: Employees and job site visitors should know how to get out of the facility in an emergency. The door is not the only part of an exit route. Use visual cues to inform workers of the best path to take that leads out of the building such as signage, labels, and highly visible floor marking tape.
  • Maintaining exits: Exit doors and pathways should be free from obstruction. Improve organization so that clutter will not have the potential of spilling into exit areas. Quickly replace old, worn, or failing exit and other emergency lighting and signage. Be sure to frequently test alarms, lighting, door mechanics, and emergency equipment.

Fire and other emergency preparation is a major part of facility safety. From equipment failures to chemical leaks and medical emergencies, facility managers can learn to better prepare for emergencies before they happen through an emergency action plan. A site-specific plan adds security and provides several safety advantages so workers can meet expectations and know what to do during and after an emergency. Consider the specific needs of the facility as a starting point for an emergency safety plan. Monitor delivery and storage areas for changes. Have proper tools in place for emergency exits, evacuation routes, and first aid and other emergency equipment stations. Keep emergency stations and kits clean, orderly, and stocked, including eyewash stations and spill kits. Ensure fire extinguishers are the right type for the facility or working area, and inspect them regularly. Amplify safety messages in these areas by using signage and floor marking combos.

Floor tape marks spill kit location

Efficient, Effective Results

Boost efficiency and its effectiveness by setting the example. Follow facility policies and procedures consistently. Limit tragedies to employees, operations, and the business itself by keeping up to date on building regulations and fire safety. Continuous evaluation and training in emergency preparedness can help new and longtime employees learn what to do. Employees should know basic first aid, how to report an emergency, best procedures for the type of emergency, and how to evacuate. 

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