MRO Magazine

Mayday!

Recently the SARS situation in Toronto highlighted the possibility of a large-scale business interruption in Canada. Just imagine that a worker at a large auto parts manufacturer comes down with sympt...


Recently the SARS situation in Toronto highlighted the possibility of a large-scale business interruption in Canada. Just imagine that a worker at a large auto parts manufacturer comes down with symptoms of SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) at the end of the shift.

Potentially, a large number of workers could be quarantined. The facility itself could be closed. It may however, take a while to shut down the production process.

Unless there is a clear emergency preparedness plan in place, this situation could spell disaster for this hypothetical company. But something can be done. Business and industry can limit injuries and damages and return more quickly to normal operations if they plan ahead.

There are many situations that could be classified as emergencies. An emergency is defined as any unplanned event that can cause death or significant injuries to employees, customers or the public; or that can shut down your business, disrupt operations, cause physical or environmental damage, or threaten the facility’s financial standing or public image.

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Numerous events can be “emergencies,” including: epidemics, fires, explosions, hazardous materials incidents, floods, hurricanes, tornados, winter storms, earthquakes, communications failures, radiological accidents, or the loss of a key supplier or customer.

The above emergencies can be managed successfully. An unmanaged emergency is commonly called a disaster. Emergency management is the process of preparing for, mitigating, responding to and recovering from an emergency.

Emergency management is a dynamic process. Planning, though critical, is not the only component. Training, conducting drills, testing equipment and coordinating activities with the larger community are other important functions.

The following are steps necessary in the successful planning process:

Step 1 — Establish a planning team

Step 2 — Analyze capabilities and hazards

Step 3 — Develop the plan

Step 4 — Implement the plan.

Let’s examine each step in more detail.

Planning team: There must be an individual or group in charge of developing the emergency management plan. The process begins with the forming of the team. The size of the planning team will depend on the facility’s operations, requirements and resources.

Input from all functional areas should be obtained, including people in upper management, line management, labour, human resources, engineering and maintenance, safety, health and environmental affairs, public information, security, community relations, sales and marketing, legal, finance and purchasing.

The upper management would appoint the team members and provide them with authority.

Budget, work schedule and planning deadlines then must be established.

Analyze capabilities and hazards: This step entails gathering information about current capabilities and possible hazards and emergencies, and then conducting a vulnerability analysis to determine the facility’s capabilities for handling emergencies.

Internal plans and procedures, such as an evacuation plan, fire protection plan, safety and health program, plant closing policy, process safety assessment, risk management plan and so on, must be reviewed.

Meetings need to take place with government agencies, community organizations and utilities such as the fire department, police department, electric utilities and so on.

Applicable provincial, federal and local regulations such as the Occupational Health and Safety Act, environmental regulations, fire codes and so on, must be identified and reviewed.

Identify critical products, services and operations. This information is required to assess the impact of potential emergencies and to determine the need for backup systems. Areas to review may include:

Company products and services, and the facilities and equipment needed to produce them

Products and services provided by suppliers, especially sole-source vendors

Lifeline services such as electrical power, water, sewage, gas, telecommunications and transportation

Operations, equipment and personnel vital to the continued functioning of the facility.

Internal resources such as company fire brigades, security and evacuation teams, and capabilities such as first-aid materials, emergency supplies, decontamination equipment, emergency operating centres, backup systems and so on, need to be identified.

External resources such as hospitals, fire department, contractors and suppliers of emergency equipment should also be identified.

As well, make a list of potential emergencies such as fires, explosions, terrorist acts or epidemics. Estimate their probability and assess the potential impact on your organization.

Develop the plan: The plan should have the following components:

Emergency management elements such as direction and control, communications, life safety and so on.

Emergency response procedures such as warning employees and customers, conducting an evacuation and accounting for all persons in the facility, fighting fires, shutting down operations, protecting vital records.

Support documents such as emergency call and resource lists and building and site plans.

Write the plan and establish a training scheduler so every one will be familiar with the plan and coordinate with the outside agencies.

Implement the plan: Implementation means more than simply exercising the plan during an emergency. It means acting on recommendations made during the analysis, integrating the plan into company operations, training employees and evaluating the plan.

The plan should be integrated into company operations and become a part of corporate culture. Having and implementing the plan will make sure everybody within the organization is ready to proceed in a rational and prepared manner, should an emergency arise.

Adherence to the plan will ensure that the emergency will not become a disaster.MRO

Safety File columnist Simon Fridlyand, P.Eng., is president of S.A.F.E. Engineering of Toronto, a company specializing in industrial health and safety issues and compliance.