Employee Safety is Our Most Important Priority

This information is from my new book, The Ultimate Business Continuity Success Guide: How to Build Real-World Resilience and Unleash Exciting New Value Streams. Happily it is now Amazon’s #1 searched business continuity book. I hope you enjoy the chapter. and the book.

Employee Safety is Our Most Important Priority

I HAVE ALWAYS STRESSED EMPLOYEE SAFETY AS A COMPANY’S NUMBER #1 PRIORITY SINCE THE FIRST DAY I STARTED BUILDING BUSINESS RESILIENCE PROGRAMS AND IT WILL ALWAYS BE THE TOP PRIORITY FOR ME.

LIVES CANNOT BE REPLACED. EQUIPMENT, LAPTOPS, PHONES, SUPPLIES CAN BE REPLACED.

WHEN YOUR EMPLOYEES ARE SAFE AND SECURE YOU WILL BE ABLE TO SUCCESSFULLY RECOVER YOUR BUSINESS.

**This chapter and the entire book includes emergency response information but it is not intended to be a thorough training manual. That is beyond the scope of this book. You should work closely with your safety and security experts.

Tip – Always keep your eyes open and report everything that can be of danger to management, your safety department and any other people that should know about the threats. Do it verbally and in writing.

Tip – Partner with Safety and Security to assist them in any way you can. The safety of employees is their direct responsibility. We must coordinate and support their efforts. My opinion is, if you have dedicated Safety and Security teams at a site then evacuation procedures and evacuation drills should be their responsibility. I realize it differs at many organizations.

Tip – Create a RACI chart that clearly indicates what Safety and Security are responsible for and what you are responsible for. There should be no confusion over responsibilities.

Tip – Perform regular evacuation drills. Everyone must participate in all of the drills no matter how high on the org chart they sit and however big they think they are. They should be reported to management if they do not participate. During 9/11 there were accounts of senior executives staying on the phone and not evacuating in a timely manner. Time the drills. Start with announced drills and then do surprise drills!

Tip – When performing tabletops and during one-on-one discussions with process owners try to gauge their level of evacuation and rally point awareness. Are they confident in the process? You should ask how they would account for their employees. Sending a fireman into a building needlessly if an employee is on vacation or left the building for any other reason is very dangerous and unnecessary.

Tip – If you do not have emergency response resources or experience bring in an outside company that specializes in employee safety to help build or audit your program.

Tip – Begin your tabletops emphasizing employee safety best practices.

Tip – Bring in representatives from the fire department, police department and Red Cross to speak with employees.

Tip – Encourage active shooter response training. It is critical!

Tip – Review FEMA scenario guidance and response training. Some good links in the ‘Hazards Central’ chapter in this part of the book.

Tip – Implement an employee hotline – it can be employee’s lifeline during a crisis.

Tip – Implement a thorough crisis communications plan.

Tip – If you are a mid-size or large organization you are beyond manual calls trees, in my opinion. In my experience, manual call trees will break down and you will waste precious seconds/minutes/hours attempting to contact employees when seconds can mean the difference between life and death. Do your employees and company a favor and consider implementing an automated mass notification solution. This is one of my specialties and I discuss it in detail throughout the book.

Tip – Let people know the importance of being accountable for their own safety.  Public first responders are great but they cannot be counted on being on-site at ‘minute zero’ of a crisis. Employees must know what to do. Awareness and practice will greatly improve the odds of surviving a crisis.

Tip – Your plans should account for people that may require assistance during an evacuation. Partner with process owners, HR and safety on this often delicate but critical subject.

Tip – Perform a thorough risk assessment. Identify threats and vulnerabilities that can impact your people and your business. Implement controls to prevent, mitigate or transfer risk where possible. I discuss this in more detail in the risk assessment chapter.

Tip – Monitor risk in real-time – I discuss tools and techniques that may benefit you in the technology chapter.

You Need an Emergency Action Plan – The purpose of an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is to facilitate and organize employer and employee actions during workplace emergencies. The elements of the plan should include, but are not limited to:

  • Evacuation procedures and emergency escape route assignments
  • Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to operate critical operations before they evacuate
  • Procedures to account for all employees after an emergency evacuation has been completed
  • Rescue and medical duties for those employees who are to perform them
  • Means of reporting fires and other emergencies
  • Names or job titles of persons who can be contacted for further information or explanation of duties under the plan

A great resource for emergency action planning is the planning guide created by the California Department of Labor and the United States Department of Labor. I suggest you read it. You must carefully write your plans and include your organization’s specific details including teams and risks. You must then review your plan with management, safety and security for input and updates. You must also test the finished plan to insure it meets your needs.

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