It’s not supposed to be a provocative title: it’s supposed to be a genuine question. How prepared are you? If a man with a bleeding gunshot wound stumbled into your reception, or if an Earthquake hit during your meeting time, or if one of your colleagues has a heart attack – how prepared would you be to act accordingly? If the answer is “not very” or any variation thereof then this article is for you. Read on to find out how you can make some positive changes to get yourself better prepared.
Safety Factors to consider
No matter what your business, interest or industry, safety should always come first. This isn’t just for emergencies really, more a general day-to-day operations problem. Sometimes things go wrong and all eventualities need to be planned and a reaction devised. The more you do this ahead of time, the safer and more secure the space.
Thus we can determine that some emergency situations can be avoided altogether with the correct amount of foresight. This means the strict monitoring on an individual level of all safety issues at all times. Broken equipment should be removed or replaced efficiently, as should objects that might cause a fall, injury or worse. In this way your corporation or organization can protect itself from the worst of emergency situations – the ones caused by poor health and safety management in the workplace.
Common Emergencies (and how to counteract them)
Some common emergencies will include employees or colleagues falling sick and needing immediate medical attention. This can be provided for by always having a First Aid trained member of staff or individual on the premises during working hours. This is perhaps the most commonly reported case and you should also perform an appropriate risk management assessment of any new job or task before you assign people to complete it.
A fire may break out in your building during operating hours. This has the potential to cause loss of life and an appropriate fire action plan should be put in place from the outset of business. Buildings should be equipped with extinguishers and sprinklers wherever possible and a fire evacuation plan should be clearly visible in a prominent area.
For Earthquakes it is important to plan ahead of time. You must evacuate everyone to the most structurally safe area of the building and wait for help to arrive. Likewise with flooding, tornadoes or other natural disasters. Again, information on what to do in these emergencies should be clearly displayed throughout the building.
Emergencies don’t have to be big events
Emergencies are classed as any situation where there is imminent danger to a person or person’s safety. This doesn’t just mean hurricanes and tsunamis, it means smaller things such as a puncture in safety gear, truck drivers driving while exhausted or a vital piece of equipment failing in the middle of production. They can be caused by as little as a dropped nail on the factory floor. For active and responsive health and safety procedures they are dealt with quickly and effectively. For everyone else there is panic.
Staff training is important at this point so that everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency. As well as signposting and providing appropriate safety measures to counteract the emergency such as providing fire extinguishers or access to torches should the power go out. When accidents happen people panic, and ensuring the leaders know how to keep control of the situation should be incorporated into any training.
Many big companies and organizations employ their own staff to create a hotline where colleagues can report any potential threats or occurring emergencies as they unfold. Monitoring incidents in this way allows you to record frequency and type of emergency and plan better to avoid it in future, thereby saving staff injury and the organization money. Even if the person injured is only a volunteer their absence will still be felt.
These hotlines are invaluable and, should your organization be too small to afford its own staff, you can hire hotlines that will work on your behalf and provide you with this vital information.
The Importance of Risk Assessment
We touched on it briefly above but one should never underestimate the power of a good risk assessment. Before starting any new task a manager should observe and predict all potential safety hazards so that they can try to avoid them. This document will also work to protect you and your employees or colleagues by providing legal proof that you evaluated the risks.
Beside the standard stuff such as the name of the person carrying out the assessment, good documentation ought to include a description of the task being carried out, an evaluation of the location and the highlighting of any potential issues. It should also include who the risk might affect, what steps were taken to avoid the risk and any suggestions for future tasks of a similar nature.
For example, unloading a truck might involve the potential hazard of a colleague injuring their backs. The manager responsible performs a risk assessment and identifies this as a potential hazard. The boss reads the report and buys back supports for the employees. Now you have nobody off sick with back problems compared to the five you had last year… and now perhaps you can understand the importance of a good risk assessment process.
Of course risk assessment cannot prevent all emergency situations, but there is value in preventing emergencies before they begin, just as much as there is value in knowing how to deal with them when they do arise. Of course there are such a broad range of situations that you might never be able to plan for them all – but as with most things, prevention in this case is much better than cure. Have a plan in place and know how to act; and each and every one involved will thank you for it if the worst does happen.