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The definition of an Emergency Operations Plan

The purpose of an emergency action plan (EOP) is to facilitate and organize employer and employee actions during workplace emergencies. Well developed emergency plans and proper training (such that everyone understand their roles and responsibilities within the plan) will result in fewer and less severe injuries and less structural damage to the facility during emergencies. A poorly prepared plan, likely will lead to a disorganized evacuation or emergency response, resulting in confusion, injury, and property damage.

Putting together a comprehensive emergency action plan that deals with those issues specific to your worksite is not difficult. It involves taking what was learned from your workplace evaluation and describing how employees will respond to different types of emergencies, taking into account your specific worksite layout, structural features, and emergency systems. Most organizations find it beneficial to include a diverse group of representatives (management and employees) in this planning process and to meet frequently to review progress and allocate development tasks. The commitment and support of all employees is critical to the plan's success in the event of an emergency; ask for their help in establishing and implementing your emergency action plan. For smaller organizations, the plan does not need to be written and may be communicated orally if there are 10 or fewer employees [29 CFR 1910.38(b)].

At a minimum, the plan must include but is not limited to the following elements [29 CFR 1910.38(c)]:

Although they are not specifically required by OSHA, you may find it helpful to include the following in your plan:

  • A description of the alarm system to be used to notify employees (including disabled employees) to evacuate and/or take other actions. The alarms used for different actions should be distinctive and might include horn blasts, sirens, or even public address systems. [More on Alarms]
  • The site of an alternative communications center to be used in the event of a fire or explosion; and
  • A secure on- or offsite location to store originals or duplicate copies of accounting records, legal documents, your employees' emergency contact lists, and other essential records.

Now that you have read through the basic overview of an emergency action plan, find out how to implement your plan.

Elements of a good emergency evacuation floor plan are:

Designate Primary & Secondary Exits
No Emergency Exits in Restrooms
Exit Away From Rooms with Hazardous Materials
No Emergency Exits into Narrow Passages
Exit Signs Indicating the Nearest Emergency Exit
Designate an Assembly Area
No Use of Elevators to Reach an Emergency Exit
Indicate Exits with Wheelchair Access
Indicate the Employee's Current Location