Notes from the field: You don’t have an emergency action plan?

By: May 25th, 2011 Email This Post Print This Post

Sometimes medical offices are so focused on workplace hazards like bloodborne pathogens that they forget about other areas of OSHA compliance.

Recently as I was doing one of my mock OSHA inspections, I asked the manager if I could see the office’s emergency action plan (EAP). She had no clue what I was talking about.

Employees need to know how to handle any type of an emergency that may arise, according to OSHA’s Emergency Action Plans standard, and if you have 11 or more employees, the plan must be in writing.

As I was trying to explain what details needed to be included in this plan, the manager jokingly said: “If something happens, I’m outta here.”

I told her she really needed to take this seriously. What if there is a tornado? Where are the employees and patients going to go to seek safety from the storm? Have the employees been trained on evacuation procedures if there is a fire in the building? I asked the manager if she had trained the staff on how to use a fire extinguisher if required as part of their job duties, and she finally realized that she needed help with preparing and training her staff on handling emergencies and evacuations.

Your EAP should include policies and procedures for bomb threats, fires, extreme weather conditions, medical crises, and workplace violence. Take each situation and document how to safely and efficiently handle it. For example, conduct a fire drill and assess how quickly the staff evacuated the building. Did everyone go to the specified location? Did they remember not to use the elevator? How long did it take to get everyone out of the building? If it took 10 minutes, you may want to repeat the fire drill.

Train the staff and physicians on how to handle emergencies that are likely to happen given the nature of your practice and its location. Review this plan with all new employees and whenever the plan has been updated.

The goal is to avoid panic and frustration during an emergency.

Be sure to check out the Escape Route Worksheet on the Tools page. It will be a helpful component of your OSHA-compliant EAP if you don’t already have one.

Editor’s note: Also, in the same section the Tools page, see the Tornado Emergency Plan for medical practices.


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