Consider for a moment all of the flammable materials that are used and stored in a typical collision repair facility. This includes solvents, fuel, oil, gases, and other types of dangerous chemicals. Add to that the type of tools and processes that are used in the facility that can ignite these materials. Welders and torches are a couple examples. Electrical shorts and static electricity can also be possible ignition sources.
A fire in the shop area of a collision repair facility can become out of control very quickly and require immediate evacuation of all employees. A hazardous chemical spill may require an emergency evacuation as well.
Emergency Action Plans
Most businesses in the United States are required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to have an emergency action plan (EAP) to facilitate and organize employer and employee actions during an emergency. This is required to be a written document for businesses with eleven or more employees. The EAP should include instructions for reporting an emergency and evacuation or relocation procedures. This also includes assigning and training a combined group of management and employees to perform specific tasks for potential emergency situations. The members of this group can be called the Emergency Response Team (ERT).
In Canada, a similar emergency plan is required for businesses where 50 or more employees are working in a building at any time. Identifying workplace hazards and developing an EAP is also encouraged in Australia and New Zealand. More information on EAPs and regional requirements can be found at the links below.
Even if your facility is not required by law to have an EAP, developing an evacuation plan and assigning an ERT will help ensure everyone makes it out of the building unharmed should an emergency occur. This article will discuss some considerations for developing an emergency evacuation plan, and how forming an ERT can help ensure a successful and safe evacuation.
Developing a Plan for Emergency Evacuation
Developing an emergency evacuation plan should begin with an evaluation of the facility. Consider the design of the building, potential hazards, and location of exits. Doing an evaluation may also reveal potential hazards that were not recognized previously.
Consider creating an ERT. This will involve assigning and training a group of employees to handle emergencies and evacuation procedures. It is important to have an adequate number of employees assigned to the ERT for each work shift and to have vacations properly covered. All employees should be informed of who the members of the ERT are and general evacuation procedures. All employees must follow the instructions given by members of the ERT for emergency evacuation plans to be effective.
Posting Emergency Instructions and Maps
Emergency instructions and maps should be posted throughout the facility and be included in new employee training materials (see Figure 1). This may be one or more documents that provide emergency contact numbers, instructions on how to use the building PA system or fire alarms, specific instructions for potential emergency situations, and floor layout maps that show the nearest exit for each posted location.
Emergency contact numbers may include Police, Fire, Ambulance, and local utility companies. In the United States, dialing 911 is sufficient for most emergency response needs.
Include instructions for how emergency situations should be communicated to the occupants of the building. If applicable, ensure that instructions for using the building PA system or fire alarms are provided. Include specific instructions for different potential emergency situations. There are various types of emergency situations and each may require different instructions. For example, a fire may require evacuating the building, but a tornado will likely require moving to a safe location within the building. Ensure that there are instructions for as many potential emergency situations as possible and include them with the posted information.
Maps should be posted around the facility to show the locations of the nearest exits. Include all levels of the building, if applicable. “You Are Here” points, specific to each map location, may help make it easier for facility personnel to determine the nearest exit more quickly. This may even include a drawn path to the nearest exit, also specific to each map location. Posted maps can also include the locations of fire extinguishers, first aid kits, and eyewash stations for emergencies that may not require immediate evacuation.
Emergency evacuation procedures should begin with notification. This can be done either by an announcement over a PA system or passed on by word-of-mouth. The nature and location of the emergency, and the meeting point outside of the building should be clearly communicated. With some exemption of ERT members, everyone should immediately exit the building and gather at the specified meeting point. Be sure that outside emergency responders, such as the fire department, are called during or immediately after the evacuation process. Inform neighboring businesses and residents if there is any chance that they may be in danger.
At least one member of the ERT should be assigned to the designated meeting area. Duties of this member should include conducting a head count after the evacuation is complete and relocating the group if conditions become dangerous for the current area.
A facility may want to require guests (anyone who is not employed by the company) to sign in and out at the front desk to ensure that everyone is accounted for in case of an emergency. Guests may include customers, contractors, delivery drivers, or students of an I-CAR class that is being held at the facility.
Maintaining an emergency evacuation plan is just as important as creating one. The assigned ERT should meet occasionally to review these plans to ensure that everyone remembers what should be done should an emergency occur. Company fire drills should also be done to ensure that all employees know how to quickly exit the building during an emergency.
Considering all the hazardous materials most collision repair facilities work with on a daily basis, it is not hard to understand that having an emergency evacuation plan is important. Having a plan and a designated ERT will help ensure that evacuation procedures are conveyed and followed properly. Occasional review of the evacuation procedures and conducting fire drills will help ensure employees make it out of the building should an emergency situation occur.