In the blink of an eye, any workplace can become the scene of an emergency situation that creates safety and health challenges. At a construction site, all it takes is a short circuit in an electrical cord to start a fire. Along a stretch of highway undergoing repairs, it could be a motorist driving into a work zone and injuring or killing a worker.
“It is imperative to plan for emergency situations that threaten worker health and safety. A comprehensive plan known to every employee can reduce injuries and fatalities at the time of the incident as well as during the all-important clean-up phase,” says LIUNA General Secretary Treasurer and LHSFNA Labor Co-Chairman Armand E. Sabitoni. “Effectively responding to a jobsite emergency frequently means doing more than calling 9-1-1. It is important to know that the law requires a site-specific emergency action plan tailored to the hazards of a particular job site, which must be familiar to all workers.”
When working in construction, common emergencies to plan for include:
- A worker who is killed or injured
- Contact with a gas line or electrical power line
- Trench collapse
- Traffic entering a work zone
- Toxic chemical spill
- Severe weather including hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, wildfires and, in general, winter weather
However, no emergency assistance plan will be effective if, in the wake of one of these events, no one knows what to do. Worker training is essential. The frequency of this training should depend on the type of work, the type of risks and the potential for an emergency situation to develop. Training should always address:
- Individual roles and responsibilities
- Notifications, warnings and communications procedures
- Means for locating family members in an emergency and for family members to find out the status of loved ones
- Emergency response procedures
- Evacuation, shelter and accountability procedures
- Location and use of common emergency equipment
- Emergency shutdown procedures
OSHA and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have useful resources on their webpages pertaining to emergency assistance plans. The Roadway Safety Consortium’s Roadway Safety Program, which was developed with assistance from the LHSFNA and the LIUNA Training and Education Fund, has separate modules pertaining to emergency and disaster response that offer guidance about emergency assistance plans.
The LHSFNA’s Occupational Safety and Health Division can provide additional guidance specific to your worksite, including onsite visits and review of your emergency assistance plan. For more information, call the Division at 202-628-5465.
[Janet Lubman Rathner]