Emergency Preparedness and Response

Emergency Preparedness for Disabled Workers

Emergency preparedness is important for all of your employees but even more so for those with disabilities. Today we look at some tips and requirements for accommodating workers with disabilities in your emergency preparedness procedures.

Emergency Action Plans (EAPs) help orchestrate employer and employee actions, including evacuations, during a workplace emergency.

An employer (i.e., property owner or occupier) must have an EAP for its facilities whenever a specific OSHA standard requires one—for example, at any facility where employees are required to evacuate when a fire alarm is sounded. Employers at facilities with fixed extinguishing systems and fire detection systems must also develop an EAP. And OSHA strongly recommends that all businesses have an EAP.

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Your EAP must include:

  • Means of reporting fires and other emergencies

  • Evacuation procedures and emergency exit route assignments

  • Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to operate critical facility operations before they evacuate

  • Procedures to account for all employees after emergency evacuation has been completed

  • Rescue and medical duties for those employees who are to perform them

  • Names or job titles of persons who can be contacted for further information or explanation of duties under the plan

Employers covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) who are required or who choose to adopt EAPs must also include procedures for evacuating people with disabilities. And even employers without EAPs should address emergency evacuation for employees with disabilities as a reasonable accommodation under the ADA.

The California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services offers these disaster preparedness tips for disabled individuals:

  • Set up a disabled worker’s job area so that he or she can quickly get under a sturdy desk, table, or other safe place for protection. This will be most important during an earthquake or explosion

  • Identify doorways behind which the worker can take cover.

  • When practicing emergency exit drills, include any special assistance a disabled worker may require. At least two other workers should be familiar with the disabled worker’s special needs, including how to operate any equipment the person uses and where emergency supplies are kept.

  • Have workers with disabilities keep a list of medications, allergies, special equipment, names and numbers of doctors, pharmacists, and family members with them at all times.

  • Have these workers keep extra medication with their emergency supplies.

  • Mobility-impaired workers should have walking aids close by at all times.

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In its booklet “Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities,” the American Red Cross recommends that individuals with disabilities create “personal support networks” both at home and in the workplace. These networks should consist of a minimum of three trusted co-workers familiar with the individual’s capabilities and needs, who could offer help within minutes.

Workers with disabilities should think about what their needs might be during a disaster and discuss those needs with members of their network. The Red Cross also recommends they give network members copies of such information as disability-related supplies and special equipment, evacuation plans, and medical information.

In tomorrow’s Advisor, we’ll look at emergency evacuation planning for workers with specific types of disabilities, and at a tool that will help you through all of your emergency preparedness—and other—training requirements.


1 thought on “Emergency Preparedness for Disabled Workers”

  1. I enjoy your safety tips and frequently forward them to several small business owners I know.

    The safety evacuation plans for disabled employees should be expanded to cover any visitors to a site. We have had visitors who have been confined to a wheelchair or are deaf. Yes we have all visitors sign in as the front desk but should a need arise to evacuate during their visit a plan should be in place with employees trained to assist those visitors in addition to assisting employees.


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