Unlike other workplaces, manufacturers have to contend with things like hazardous materials and potentially dangerous machinery. They also tend to have larger groups of employees in their physical building at once, which can lead to additional challenges when it comes to keeping everyone safe.
However, there are plenty of resources available to help industrial company leaders prepare responses to all kinds of emergencies and threats in a way that minimizes danger and damage for everyone.
Besides the moral imperative of keeping your employees safe, there are huge compliance fines if you fail to observe the laws and regulations designed to protect your workers and your community.
That’s why most manufacturers strive to make safety and security a big part of their culture. Emergency planning is one of the central pillars of a safe work environment.
Here are a few of the critical steps that will help prepare your manufacturing company for emergencies and other threats.
Starting an emergency preparedness initiative isn’t much different than other business initiatives: It should start with defining roles and responsibilities, which we explain in our bonus download.
Once you have your team in place, it’s time to get started.
Conduct a Risk Assessment
You can’t plan very well for emergencies without a clear understanding of all potential emergencies.
Ready.gov has an entire resource section devoted to assessing threats to your workforce and business. It suggests three stages of risk assessment:
- Hazard identification – Consider which types of hazards could affect your company, from natural disasters to human-caused dangers.
- Vulnerability assessment – In this stage, consider which assets are at risk from each potential hazard. The most important “asset” is always your employees, but you’ll also have to worry about things like supply chain interruptions and even your company’s long-term reputation.
- Impact analysis – This is where you get clear about the actual, measurable damage that could be done by the disaster.
Once the different risks have been determined, you can also assess the current strengths of your infrastructure and employees. Then, you can rank or rate the potential hazards based on likelihood and capacity for damage.
Make a Plan
Once you’ve prioritized the hazards facing your company, create a plan for responding to each one.
When developing your emergency action plan, determine which of the following actions will be appropriate for each threat you listed. Here are the emergency options when it comes to keeping your employees safe:
- Evacuation – All building occupants must be relocated in the case of emergencies such as fires, hazardous chemical spills, gas leaks, and bomb threats. Evacuation plans require safe, clearly marked routes to exits and clearly designated meeting spaces.
- Shelter or Shelter-In-Place – The safest option in the face of many outside threats, such as a tornado or an external chemical spill, is to take shelter within the appropriate space inside the workplace. Employees need to know exactly how to get to the designated safe spaces for each emergency scenario.
- Lockdown – In the case of an on-site threat of violence or a threat of violence in the vicinity, the best course of action is to lock employees inside, instruct them to barricade the entrances, and shut down outside access to the building.
Your emergency plan should also include
- a plan for communications
- a designation of who is authorized to order an evacuation or shutdown, and what the chain of command is if each person in question is unavailable
- designations for which employees will assist with moving building occupants to safe spaces
- a way to account for employees and other building occupants (such as visitors and contractors) after an evacuation or a move to a shelter
- a list of where to find special emergency equipment, such as respirators and fire extinguishers
- a plan to install and maintain warning systems (such as alarms) and other emergency equipment
Don’t forget to send your company’s emergency plans to local emergency services, such as the fire department, law enforcement, and any other relevant public agencies. The plans can help public officials assist more effectively in the case of emergency. Emergency responders won’t be familiar with the various hazards of your manufacturing facility unless you give them the relevant information. Trying to relay it during an emergency is not ideal. It’s better to be proactive and send it now.
Educate and Train Employees
Once you have solid plans for your top priority emergency scenarios, it’s time to make sure everyone in your company understands them and knows exactly which roles they play in each one.
Start by making emergency plans readily accessible. Don’t just email them to employees; put them available in a public folder on your network. It also helps to post the emergency plans throughout the workplace where employees can see them visually, and to clearly mark the locations of emergency equipment such as fire extinguishers and AEDs.
Some companies even decide to use dedicated emergency planning apps (like this one) that employees can download on their phones and tablets. These apps can be programmed with specific emergency procedures and make communication easier in the case of an emergency.
However, it’s not enough for employees to understand the emergency plans. They need to practice them. Physically moving through the plan (as opposed to simply reading it) will help employees remember what to do in a crisis. It will also help to work out any problems in the emergency procedures. Employees need to be periodically drilled on how to evacuate, shelter-in-place, and lockdown.
Cecile Felcher suggest that you might even want to vary the scenarios in these drills for your higher-risk hazards. For example, what if multiple accidents happen at once? What if key people on the emergency planning team are absent that day? Changing the drills up can keep employees from just going through the motions.
Make Ongoing Improvements
Emergency preparedness needs to be an ongoing effort, not a one-time task. Emergency plans won’t work if they aren’t updated in light of new threats, evolving staff, and changing infrastructure.
As with any company initiative, emergency preparation will only be successful if there’s a real commitment on the part of company leaders to make it a company priority.
If these efforts are going to be kept top-of-mind by the full staff, they need to be discussed by leaders throughout the year. They should be the focus of regular meetings dedicated solely to safety and emergency planning.
Company leaders need to make it absolutely clear that full cooperation is expected with the efforts from the emergency planning team. Emergency preparedness is not simply a matter of complying with the law; it’s a business-critical initiative that’s just as important as the rest of the company’s goals.Emergency planning is not just a matter of compliance. It’s a business-critical initiative. #receptionistapp Click To Tweet
Finally, if you’re looking for a better way to keep track of who is inside your factory or building at any given time, we invite you to try The Receptionist.
Our tablet-based app makes factory visitor check-in easy and secure, and one of its many helpful features is an evacuation list. This feature allows your emergency response team to quickly access a real-time list of everyone who is currently inside your facility. Because the software is cloud-based, the list is accessible from any internet connected device, which can be especially helpful in an emergency situation.
Accurate headcounts will help you make sure all building occupants are evacuated safely. They can also prevent risky search-and-rescue missions. Click here to try a 14-day trial of The Receptionist for free.
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