The Role of HR in Developing and Maintaining an Effective Emergency Plan

Table of Contents

Why is an effective emergency plan in the workplace important?

Emergencies can happen anywhere and at any time. An emergency is an unpredictable change in events which can vary in size and impact. As a method to counteract emergencies, it can help to be prepared and actively plan ahead to avoid the loss of life, the environment and property. An emergency plan specifies procedures for dealing with sudden or unexpected situations.

The objective is to be prepared and to be able to:

  1. Prevent fatalities and injuries.
  2. Reduce damage to buildings, stock, and equipment.
  3. Protect the environment and the community.
  4. Accelerate the return of normal operations.

Preplanning is essential to mitigate some of the risks associated with emergencies. At the onset of an emergency, many decisions need to be made in a short time. Depending on the time and circumstance of the emergency, access to the normal chain of command may be limited. Added to that, stress of the incident can result in poor decision-making or extensive losses.

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What would the actual role of HR in the development and maintenance of these plans be?

HR plays a pivotal role in the planning and execution of events, policies and protocols for a company, especially in the event of a major disaster. A contingency plan for an emergency includes simplifying safety initiatives, communicating with employees and prioritising crisis management efforts. The HR department will have the primary responsibility for managing employees needs during an emergency and should include contingency staffing plans as part of the disaster and emergency planning process.

How does one then create an effective Emergency Plan?

  1. Identify your risks and hazards. Proactive risk management means you identify risks before they happen.
  2. Mitigate hazards (Planning and protection)
  3. Purchase supplies by making sure that emergency equipment like firefighting equipment and first aid boxes are available and maintained at all times.
  4. Health and safety training for employees. This will make employees aware and prepared for an emergency.

So, what would the five steps be during an emergency response?

The five steps of emergency management are prevention, mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. The HR manager should create a comprehensive emergency plan that outlines procedures and protocols for each type of emergency as well as what the roles and responsibilities of the emergency response team members would be.
The number one priority of the emergency evacuation team members is to ensure and assist in the safe and orderly evacuation of all employees and visitors in an emergency situation.

There are various ways on communicating safety and emergency protocols to your employees and visitors:

  1. Create awareness about safety
  2. Talk Safety
  3. Meetings and Toolbox Talks
  4. Training of staff
  5. Induction
  6. Regular fire drills
  7. Post signage throughout the workplace
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How would an effective emergency plan be implemented?

As any emergency management professional will tell you, the best time to prepare for an emergency is well before it occurs. If a fire or a flood happens in your workplace, you won’t have time to create an evacuation plan on the spot, you will be too busy focusing on immediate hazards.

Taking a proactive approach to emergency planning by communicating and providing the necessary training to employees will help you ensure the best possible outcomes for your people and business. While we can’t necessarily predict when critical events will happen, emergencies are a reality for every business—so you need to be prepared. Test your emergency plan to ensure that it is effective and review and update as needed based on any new potential hazards or changes in the workplace.

Maintaining an effective emergency plan.

Review, revise, and maintain the plan. 

A well-designed emergency plan that safeguards your employees has benefit for everyone as a safe workplace, the wellbeing of your staff and the success of your business are all interlinked. The health and safety team should establish a process for continuously reviewing and revising the plan according to changing risks and hazards

Keeping the contact information of the emergency services up to date is critical as there won’t be time in an emergency to look for telephone numbers. The plan should be reviewed and updated on a regular basis to ensure it is accurate and suits the current environment.

Organisations, no matter how big, are made up of people. The HR department is mainly responsible for writing up, implementing and communicating employment policies and procedures to employees. Because of this reason, they should be involved in emergency management preparedness and implementation. 

While HR may not be directly involved in many aspects of the business such as security, catering or transport, they still have a role and a responsibility to communicate with everyone and ensure an effective emergency plan is in place at all times.

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