Are You Prepared for the Worst?

PrepareSometimes, things happen. Sometimes, things go wrong. It’s simply a fact of life – an unfortunate reality, but a fact all the same. Unexpected tragedies like the West Virginia mine disaster that ended in the deaths of 29 miners in April or the ongoing misfortune of the Gulf oil rig explosion that killed 11 workers and resulted in one of the worst oils spills in U.S. history are reminders that things can go wrong. That’s why being prepared for the worst with a crisis management plan is vital to the safety of your workers and the future of your business.

So, in honor of safety month, make sure you set aside some time in June to create a comprehensive workplace crisis plan for the unexpected. It can be a difficult process, but it’s important to consider every potential circumstance and be prepared for every possibility. Expect and hope for the best, but for the sake of your employees, your customers, and your business, be ready for anything – even events beyond your control like natural disasters. As you prepare your plan, here are some guidelines to get you started.

Plan for different factors and scenarios.

From regions to industries to work environments, every workplace will have different factors and crisis scenarios to consider. So, identify the factors and scenarios that could impact your company before you write a crisis management plan. Manufacturing and construction industries, for example, should establish guidelines for serious workplace injuries. Industrial plants should discern possible hazards like plant fires or chemical leaks. Businesses in coastal regions should prepare for hurricane threats which, according to government forecasts, are expected to be very active this season. Once you’ve determined and reviewed the possible issues your company could encounter, you can create one comprehensive plan that lists considerations and actions for each potential crisis circumstance.

Incorporate the essentials into your plan.

Make sure your crisis plan covers all the basics. Essential elements that every crisis management plan should include the following, as specified by the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA):

Appoint leaders. Prior to an emergency, ensure your company has designated leaders who will be in charge should a crisis occur. And, don’t forget to include a succession list in case top personnel are injured or unavailable.

Plan procedures. Before a crisis strikes, evacuation plans, emergency routes, and procedures should be established and communicated. Emergency exits and routes should be clearly marked. Safety and shelter zones should be designated. And, employees should be aware and regularly trained on emergency plans and procedures.

Set up a crisis communication process. Develop a clear and concise communication plan to put in place in case of a safety issue. That includes notifying emergency officials like the police or the fire department, your employees, and even your suppliers, clients, customers, and employee families if necessary. And in the event of a crisis, don’t forget to communicate with off-duty staff members as well.

Establish a temporary base. If facilities need to be evacuated during a crisis, select a transient location that is safe and secure until the recovery phase so you can continue operating. Health care faculties for example need to determine a secondary location to house patients in the event of an emergency.

Audit safety equipment. To protect your employees, property, company facilities, and important documents and data in case of emergencies like fires and floods, regularly conduct a safety audit to ensure you’re in compliance with industry standards, and state and federal regulations. This includes checking fire alarm systems, fire extinguishers, and emergency lights and exits. Being proactive about emergency equipment can help prevent damage to your business.

Communicate the plan.

A plan that has not been communicated can not be effective. Your entire workforce – from the top down – should be aware of and have access to emergency planning procedures that pertain to their roles. From the first day on the job, employees should be informed where emergency routes and exits are and what to do in case of an emergency. Frequently train employees who have specific roles in the crisis management process.

Review and revise your plan.

Update and revise your plan when new potential issues arise or when policies or procedures change. If the transient location stated in your crisis plan changes, revise the plan and communicate the changes to your employee. If turnover occurs and appointed leaders in the plan change, revise the plan and again communicate any changes with your workforce. It’s imperative to the safety of your employees that your crisis management plan is up to date.

By preparing for the worst, you protect your employees and your business. And, you can reduce your company’s exposure to liability, insurance premiums, and financial loss such as regulatory fines. Sometimes things happen, so start creating a crisis management plan for your business, and you’ll be prepared.

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