Section J Extraneous Hazards

At times, the workplace is impacted by forces, activities, or new/arising events or topics that are extraneous to the initial origins or purpose of the company but become an issue that cannot be overlooked in the functioning of the company. The chapters in this section discuss how these outside hazards affect the overall safety and health of the workplace and workforce.

The contents of this section are as follows:

Chapter 48—Emergency Planning Chapter 49—Workplace Security and Violence Chapter 50—External Force: Terrorism Chapter 51—Off-the-Job Safety

Emergency Planning

A workplace emergency is an unforeseen situation that threatens employees, customers, or the public; disrupt or shuts down an operation; or causes physical or environmental damage. Emergencies may be natural or man-made.

Each and every workplace or business has the potential to experience an emergency situation or event. The failure of a company or business to plan for an emergency is actually a plan to fail, when an emergency transpires. This is why an ineffective response to an emergency could result in adverse outcomes. The questions that arise are as follows:

  • • Why was the emergency not planned for?
  • • Why was there an inadequate response?
  • • Why was there not a plan for the specific emergency?
  • • Why were employees not trained to respond to the emergency?
  • • Why had the employees not been drilled or practiced regarding response to emergencies?
  • • Why were there no signals or alarms?
  • • Why were evacuation routes and exits not marked?
  • • Why was medical care not readily available?
  • • Why did emergency response personnel or rescuers fail to respond properly?

There is no way that an industry or business can account and plan for the all the unforeseen emergency events. The failure to at least assess or evaluate the potential for emergencies or at the very least address the types of emergencies that could occur at a specific jobsite or work site could increase the amount of liability faced by the company or business.

It is extremely doubtful that all industry sectors or businesses do not have to plan for an emergency. Where employees exist, there is always potential for human emergencies such as injury, illness, death, violence, and medical emergencies. The weather and environment can also create natural emergencies such as storms, floods, earthquakes, and tornados. The man-made emergencies can not be overlooked either, such as fire, explosion, or chemical spills. The key is to be the best prepared as possible to react to any emergency.

In recent years, emergency response has become much more complicated due to more than fire, accidents, weather, etc. With the advent of terrorism, all types of issues have arisen, such as bombing, sabotage, employee security, structure security, domestic disputes, etc. The potential outcomes of not planning for emergencies are destruction, deaths, injuries, illnesses, damage, property loss, pollution, and catastrophes. This is just another reason why emergency preparedness requires planning.

When looking at what hazards exist in a workplace, it is imperative that a worst-case scenario approach be employed. It is virtually impossible to address each possible hazard, but each industry has areas where it is most vulnerable or most at risk of an unplanned emergency event. A risk assessment of some type is the approach that will allow for the

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prioritization of the potential risk. From a risk assessment, an action plan can be developed to address the hazards that have been identified. Some of the common hazards that might be identified as having an impact on the workplace and can be causal factors that may facilitate emergencies are as follows:

Potential Causes of Emergencies

• Accidental release of toxic substances

• Accidents (injuries, illnesses, and deaths)

• Airborne chemical or biological releases

• Avalanche

• Bomb threat

• Catastrophic failure

• Chemical spill

• Civil strife

• Collapses

• Deliberate release of hazardous biological agents or toxic

substances

• Disease outbreaks (epidemic)

• Earthquakes

• Explosion

• Exposure to ionizing radiation

• Fire

• Flooding

• Foreign travel

• Hurricanes

• Labor strike

• Landslide

• Live conductors

• Loss of communications

• Major structural failure

• Mechanical failure

• Medical events

• Natural gas leak

• Power outage

• Release of radioactive materials

• Sabotage

• Security issues

• Spills of flammable liquids

• Suspicious letter or package

• Tornados

• Transportation incidents (truck, rail, or air)

• Tsunami

• Typhoon

• War or conflict

• Water leak

• Windstorms

• Winter storms

• Workplace violence

Why plan for emergencies? First and foremost, it is a moral obligation. Secondly, it is a legal obligation. Thirdly, government, state, and local regulations require such planning.

The best way is to prepare to respond to an emergency before it happens. Few people can think clearly and logically in a crisis, so it is important to do so in advance, when you have time to be thorough. This is another reason why an emergency action plan (EAP) should be an integral part of emergency planning as an element of good practice for proper safety and health management.

Why EAPs?

The question as to why an employer needs to develop a plan of action to address emergencies is not complex. Why begins with preventing fatalities, injuries, and illnesses while reducing damage to buildings, stock, and equipment, the result of which is the acceleration of the resumption of normal operations. It also facilitates a company's ability to recover from financial losses, regulatory fines, and loss of market share. Emergency planning can reduce exposure to civil and criminal liability in the event of an incident. It will reduce insurance premiums while enhancing the company's image and credibility with employees, customers, suppliers, and the community.

An EAP covers designated actions employers and employees must take to ensure employee safety from fire or other potential emergencies. Not all employers are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to establish an EAP, but from a philosophical basis for an effective safety and health initiative, an EAP is a responsible approach for all employers.

Not every employer is required to have an EAP. The occupational safety and health standards that require such plans include the following:

  • • Process Safety Management of Highly Hazardous Chemicals, 1910.119
  • • Fixed Extinguishing Systems, General, 1910.160
  • • Fire Detection Systems, 1910.164
  • • Grain Handling, 1910.272
  • • Ethylene Oxide, 1910.1047
  • • Methylenedianiline, 1910.1050
  • • 1,3 Butadiene, 1910.1051

If the employer has 10 or fewer employees, then he/she can communicate the plan orally instead of the required written plan that is to be maintained in the workplace and available to all workers. When required, employers must develop EAPs.

When developing an EAP, it's a good idea to look at a wide variety of potential emergencies that could occur in the workplace. It should be tailored to the specific work site and include information about all potential sources of emergencies.

Prior to developing a written EAP, employers will need to assess the workplace to determine the types of emergencies that have the realistic potential to occur with his/her work environment. It is definitely impossible to plan for every conceivable emergency, but planning for the most likely risk will help plan for the unforeseen.

Developing an EAP means the employer should do a hazard assessment to determine what, if any, physical or chemical hazards exist in the workplace and could cause an emergency. If an employer has more than one work site, each site should have an EAP tailored for that site.

Once the EAP has been reviewed with employees and everyone has had the proper training, it is a good idea to hold practice drills as often as necessary to keep employees prepared. Include outside resources such as fire and police departments when possible. After each drill, gather management and employees to evaluate the effectiveness of the drill. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of your plan, and work to improve it. Review your plan with all employees, and consider requiring annual training in the plan. Also offer training when you do the following:

  • • Develop your initial plan.
  • • Hire new employees.
  • • Introduce new equipment, materials, or processes into the workplace that affect evacuation routes.
  • • Change the layout or design of the facility.
  • • Revise or update your emergency procedures.
 
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