What is emergency response or preparedness?
Emergency response / preparedness is the act of being prepared for an unexpected disaster. This can be a natural disaster or a man-made one. Whether it is an earthquake or hurricane, a deadly influenza outbreak, or an employee's estranged spouse entering your workplace with a weapon you must plan for all eventualities.
Having a plan in place to deal with emergency situations can help stabilize your company's operations during a turbulent period. It will also ensure that your workers, premises, equipment and stock are kept safe and the disruption to your business minimized.
What the law says
The Occupational Health and Safety Act gives the Government of Ontario broad powers to make regulations and sets out general principles and duties for the workplace parties. The regulations set out in detail how these duties are to be carried out. Many regulations have been made under the Act. For example, there are four separate safety regulations that apply to industrial establishments, construction sites, mines and health care facilities.
Employers, supervisors, owners and constructors, among others, have an obligation to know and comply with the regulations that apply to their workplaces. For the specifics on the regulations that cover your workplace, contact your health and safety provider.
How having an emergency response / preparedness program can help your business
Injuries to your workers, damage to your premises or stock and business disruptions can all have a devastating impact on your bottom line. Emergencies and disasters can occur any time and without warning. The more you are prepared for them, the better your response will be, ultimately minimizing panic, confusion and damage to your business when an emergency occurs.
What you can do
Start by asking some basic questions, like how well prepared is your business now, what procedures do you already have in place for an emergency situation, and what potential emergency situations could occur?
Once you have answered those questions, start to prepare a plan that will include:
- An evaluation of the security of your premises; review how much access visitors have to your site
- Records and data - in the event of damage to your premises would you have access to your data and records
- Supply chain - evaluate alternate supply sources in the event that your supplier is unable to provide material to you
- An outline of procedures to keep staff safe in the event of an emergency situation, including:
- the conditions under which an evacuation would be necessary
- designating primary and secondary evacuation routes and emergency exits that are clearly marked and well lit
- posting signs
- installing emergency lighting in case a power outage occurs during the evacuation
- ensuring that evacuation routes and emergency exits are wide enough to accommodate the number of evacuating people, clear and unobstructed at all times and unlikely to expose evacuating people to additional hazards
- designating "evacuation wardens" who will help others during an evacuation and to account for employees