Workplace hazards are not always possible to anticipate, but savvy manufacturers are harnessing technology more than ever to stack the deck in their favor in terms of manufacturing disaster planning. Fortunately, establishing some best practices for emergency plans not only helps reduce the panic and confusion that people experience in the grips of a disaster, it can reduce the severity of the event and aid in faster recovery. What’s more, technology can help at every point along the way. Here are some strategies that employers may consider, and the technology that takes them to the next level:
Seek advice from within to build a response plan. Employers should consider that, in a sense, nobody knows their business better than the employees who work there! Develop an emergency action plan with input from employees who can often offer particular insight about potential hazards involved in tasks they perform every day. Assign roles for employers and employees alike to fulfill should an emergency occur, and a communication plan so that everyone is notified whether the emergency occurs during work hours or after hours. Consider everything from how the entire plant is notified to exit plans and routes throughout the structure; establish where everyone should meet after the building is evacuated, and how to account for every person in the building. Tailor the plan for the appropriate response given the type of emergency at hand (e.g., response for a hazardous chemical spill will be different from a response for an active shooter in the building.) Review the plan at least annually for updates as new hazards or change in circumstances occur—e.g., addition of a mobility-impaired employee who will need additional assistance in evacuation.
- Technology assist: Incident management software available today offers mobile apps that make it simple for employees on the line to report accidents the instant they happen, and provide tools that easily track injuries, hazards, and close calls. In aggregate, the data can paint a picture that can help employers and the insurance agents who advise them craft a more comprehensive plan.
Put the plan through its paces via training exercises. Proper and thorough job training is in itself a way to help with an emergency plan, because employees who are well trained and are diligent about observing safety practices on the job means that a firm is already well positioned to prevent incidents from occurring in the first place. Add disaster training to the lineup and employees will be prepared to shift into their assigned roles and responsibilities during a crisis, which reduces miscommunication and general disorganized or dangerous behavior that could make matters worse (e.g., additional injuries sustained by employees or additional property damage or loss).
- Technology assist: Training modules can be accessed on demand so employees can complete them at their own pace. The modules offer tracking tools that allow employers to check for completion, view data about correct/incorrect responses, create a schedule of training requirements and manage course assignments to ensure that all employees are staying on track.
Communicate the presence of onsite hazardous chemicals to local first responder agencies. Of course, employers and employees should have complete awareness of any on-site materials that could pose a risk, and thorough training on handling and storage of the chemicals. Just as important, providing information about on-site hazardous chemicals to the first responders who could otherwise be walking in blind to a deadly environment cannot be stressed enough. Facilities that have hazardous materials on site that are at or above limits established by the EPA are required to have Tier II Hazardous Chemical Inventory Reports available for local responders in advance of an emergency so they can be prepared with the proper equipment. These reports list the location, amounts, and types of hazardous chemicals that a facility has on its premises.
- Technology assist: Chemical management software programs specify the exact reporting requirements applicable for the chemicals that a facility has in its inventory, and help employers manage and track the reports from preparation through submission. Other such programs will directly share the inventory information about the chemicals that are present at a given facility with local emergency first responders. The information can also include essential information such as the facility’s floor plans and a map detailing the location of where chemicals are stored.
These are just a few of the strategies that can help manufacturers bring an additional level of safety to their operations; we can tell you much more, as well as how to get coverage for the risks that face manufacturers. RPS specializes in providing manufacturing insurance solutions to protect against everything from the global chain supply exposures that manufacturing companies face to losses due to equipment breakdown, product liability and more. To learn more about our insurance programs, please contact us.