Emergency Preparedness and Response, Injuries and Illness

4 Crucial Questions to Ask When Developing a Contingency Plan for Workplace Medical Emergencies

Every workplace should have a contingency plan for medical emergencies. Even workplaces with just a handful of employees could be susceptible to emergencies, and having a plan for what to do when those emergencies happen can help people stay calm and sometimes save lives.

When developing a necessary and effective contingency plan for medical emergencies, there are certain questions planners and leaders should ask themselves. These crucial questions will help guide the plan development and ensure that any plan put into place addresses the right needs.

Here are four questions to ask when developing an effective plan for medical emergencies in the workplace:

1. What are the potential risks?

Any good plan needs to start with a risk assessment. After all, you can’t plan for risk and mitigation without knowing what you are trying to mitigate.

The business continuity planning process identifies and assesses specific risks and threats that could disrupt your organization’s operations, finances, reputation, customer trust, and regulatory compliance. Employee health and safety risks need to be considered when developing a business continuity plan. Mitigating strategies and a medical emergency response plan demonstrate your commitment to the employees’ safety and positively impact morale and loyalty.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, private industry employers reported 2.6 million nonfatal workplace injuries and medical emergencies in 2021 alone. Injuries and emergencies include, but are not limited to cardiac emergencies, falls, allergic reactions, choking, musculoskeletal, cuts, and burns.

2. How can impacts be minimized or mitigated?

Once risks are identified, the next step for the business continuity planning team is to decide how the impact of potential risks can be minimized or mitigated. Personal protective equipment, situational awareness, and adherence to safety protocols can mitigate many health and safety risks. Implementing employee first aid training, regular equipment maintenance and inspection schedule, conducting drills, and fostering an open communication work environment will create a healthy and safer workplace and strengthen your response should an emergency occur. To minimize operational disruption, make sure have redundancy in critical systems and alternative arrangements for processes and affected staff. This may involve establishing backup systems, alternate worksites, crisis communication protocols, and recovery strategies tailored to each specific risk.

3. Who are key stakeholders and what are their roles?

Your health and safety plan should identify roles for medical emergencies. For example, if an employee or visitor suddenly collapses, who provides first aid, calls 911, meets EMS on arrival, alerts the leadership, or completes the safety report? HR and legal should be integrated into this plan as well.

Key stakeholders include those within your organization and external groups, such as customers, suppliers, vendors, regulatory bodies, and local authorities. The team should determine the roles and responsibilities of those stakeholders as they design and develop the contingency plan. By assigning clear roles, the organization will effectively coordinate and communicate during an emergency. Lastly, ensure that you have a crisis communication plan to handle any potential reputation risks promptly with a message to your customers and additional audience.

4. How will the plan be tested and reviewed?

Some organizations—such as schools and some medical facilities—are required by their state government to review emergency plans either on a monthly or quarterly basis. Some places of business may be required by law to do this as well.

Organizations should include medical emergencies in their business continuity plan design and development. Tabletop exercises, simulations, and drills should be conducted regularly and evaluated against the organization’s capabilities to identify gaps and areas for improvement.

Exercises provide a way to evaluate operations and validate plans and capabilities. Additionally, they reinforce teamwork, communication, roles, and responsibilities. There should also be an established schedule for plan reviews and updates that account for changes in the organization, the law, the industry, or the external environment.

COVID-19 had a profound impact on business continuity plans worldwide. It exposed many vulnerabilities in businesses’ preparedness. This global medical crisis affected more than individual health it crippled operations. Plans had to unexpectedly be reviewed and enhanced to address remote work, supply chain disruptions, public health regulatory compliance, vendor and customer relations, and crisis communication.

No leader or business owner wants a medical emergency to happen in their organization, but people experience medical emergencies every day—even at work. Integrating health and safety considerations into your business continuity plan demonstrates the interest of your team’s well-being and enhances your capability to continue essential functions and operations during and after a crisis or disruption. 
Abe Medina is founder and creator of GEM.

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