|July 14, 2016
Farms, like most workplaces, face unexpected emergencies and disasters. Agricultural emergencies and disasters can be natural or man-made. To help lessen the impact of these events, employers and supervisors should develop and exercise an emergency action plan that prepares workers to react to and handle emergencies and disasters before they occur.
What is an Emergency Action Plan (EAP)?
An emergency action plan identifies and organizes employer and worker responsibilities in preparation for and when responding to a workplace emergency or disaster. Having a plan with the employer’s support and commitment and workers’ participation is key to an orderly evacuation and quick response. Developing and implementing an EAP can lessen confusion, decrease injuries, and limit destruction of property during and after a disaster or other emergency.
How to Prepare an Emergency Action Plan
A well-documented EAP should ensure that emergency response procedures are established for before, during, and after an emergency. The plan should be broad enough to address all types of emergencies or disasters that could possibly occur on the farm. For smaller organizations, the EAP does not need to be written and may be communicated orally. Nevertheless, it is always a good practice to have a written emergency action plan. The best EAPs are customized for your specific farm operations and require time, thought and planning. Include workers and family members in the emergency preparedness planning process to help identify emergency or disaster situations that can impact the farm. The EAP should be revised once shortcomings have become known, and reviewed at least annually. The employer should review the EAP with each worker when:
Preplanning with First Responders
Implementing and exercising an emergency action plan should involve working with your local first responders or fire department. Invite them to walk your farm to gather and record important information that could be critical for making life-saving decisions at an incident, such as a grain bin entrapment, fire or natural disaster. Pre-planning allows first responders to become familiar with the following:
Worker training may vary from operation to operation. Some employers set up formal classroom-style training for workers and others work one-on-one with workers. If workers are expected to perform adequately in an emergency, provision must be made for the training of both individuals and teams. Regardless of the training approach, worker training is an important part of a good emergency preparedness plan. Training should be conducted periodically or as needed to maintain workplace preparedness. In addition, training and training materials should be provided to workers in a language that they understand.
Workers should be trained in the following areas:
Unless the plan is tested, it is difficult to predict all of the problems that may happen. Exercises and drills are excellent tools to minimize these potential problems. Nevertheless, exercises and drills should be conducted annually or as needed to practice all or critical portions (such as evacuation) of the emergency response plan.
After each drill, exercise, or emergency incident, a meeting or review should be held to evaluate what happened, why it happened, and how it can be done better by the employer and worker(s) in the future. Furthermore, post exercise and drill meetings or reviews will identify areas that require improvements.
Medical Service and First Aid
At least one person or persons, in the absence of an infirmary, clinic, or hospital in near proximity to the workplace, should be adequately trained to render first aid. It is also essential that basic first-aid supplies are available. Emergency phone numbers should be posted in visible places, inside farm vehicles, and on telephones. For more information on first aid, see OSHA’s Best Practices Guide: Fundamentals of a Workplace First-Aid Program at www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3317first-aid.pdf. Workplace Emergency Response Team
A farm’s most valuable asset during the first few minutes of an emergency is a well-trained and disciplined emergency response team. A farm emergency response may be provided by an outside organization, such as the fire department or in some cases, the farm’s internal emergency response team. Workers who are members of the emergency response team should be thoroughly trained and physically capable of performing emergency response duties and responsibilities. They should also be knowledgeable about the hazards found on the farm.
Team members should know when to take actions themselves or to wait on outside assistance when an emergency or disaster is too large to handle (i.e., the fire department).
One or more members on the team should be trained in:
Employers should alert contractors about the hazards found in the workplace, particularly regarding the work they are to perform. In any emergency situation, contractors should be able to take appropriate action as part of the EAP.