Safetip #112: Vulnerability Assessment & Emergency Action Plan
An occupational safety and health program must include an emergency action plan to protect workers from harm, and ensure that an organization can resume operations following a disaster. The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season was the most expensive hurricane season in U.S. history, and served as a reminder of the importance of having an effective emergency action plan in place.
What is a Vulnerability Assessment?
According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety (CCOSH), the development of an emergency action plan must start with a vulnerability assessment that helps to answer the following questions:
- What conditions could lead to an emergency situation?
- What is the likelihood of the emergency situation?
- Can the emergency situation be prevented, if yes, how?
Emergencies, especially weather-related ones, are difficult to predict because they can occur suddenly or with little notice. However, it is still possible to prepare for them and the first step consists of identifying the potential hazards that can lead to an emergency. Sources to establish the list of hazards include records of past emergencies, as well as information from fire departments, insurance companies, consultants, and government agencies.
What Types of Hazards Can Lead to Emergencies?
CCOSH categorizes hazards as technological (chemical or physical) and natural. Examples of technological hazards include:
- Building collapses
- Major structural failures
- Spills of flammable liquids
- Releases of toxic chemicals or hazardous biological agents
- Loss of electrical power
- Loss of water supply
- Loss of communications
Examples of natural hazards include:
- Other severe wind storms
- Snow or ice storms
- Severe extremes in temperature
Consider also the possibility that one event can trigger another or create a domino effect. A recent high-profile example is hurricane Harvey, which caused a power outage that led to explosions at the Arkema chemical plant.
Finally, remember to review the emergency action plan, including the vulnerability assessment, and make the required updates.
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