Under the AODA [Integrated Accessibility Standards Regulation (IASR) S.27(1)], employers must provide personalized emergency response plans to workers who have temporary or permanent disabilities. While there are only a few guidelines that outline what a workplace personalized emergency response plan must include, there are some best practices that all businesses should follow when creating an emergency response plan. Below, we outline information to include when creating a workplace personalized emergency response plan.
Employers should work alongside the affected worker to create the personalized workplace emergency plan.
Employers must also seek out volunteers to help the worker in the event of an emergency.
Creating Your Personalized Emergency Response Plan
The workplace personalized emergency response plan should include:
- The name of the worker with a disability
- The worker’s department
Also include specific information about the workplace, such as the floor, office number, or desk location of the worker. Detailed employee information will assist the volunteer by providing specific details of the worker. This information will be especially helpful if the co-workers are not in the same department or on the same floor.
Emergency contact information
In case of an emergency, it is best to have a worker’s personal emergency contact information. Emergency contact information is good to have if the worker is experiencing panic, stress, or anxiety. Also, emergency contact information is best to have in case of an injury, or in the worst case a fatality. Emergency contact information should include:
- Phone number
- Relationship to the worker
Assistance methods and equipment
List any assistance workers with disabilities need, such as:
- Whether the worker needs assistance or a volunteer to help get out of the building or work area
- How to move the workers if they have a mobility impairment
Also include detailed information regarding equipment and devices the worker uses, such as:
- Any pieces of equipment or device(s) the worker uses
- For example, a walker, wheelchair, cane, crutches, or service animal
- The location of the equipment or device(s), it if is stored
- How to use the equipment or device(s)
Emergency alerts and signage
Buildings should have multiple signals, such as audio, visual, and even vibratory alarms, in the event of an emergency. There are many devices on the market that emit both audio and visual cues in the event of an emergency. Individuals with disabilities must be made aware of these cues if an emergency arises.
Include and describe the emergency alerts your business has and how the employees will be notified. Despite having both audio and visual alerts, coworkers or volunteer coworkers should still notify their co-worker in an emergency. For example, if a worker has a hearing impairment, they will require a visual alarm system and a co-worker to notify them.
Visual signage needs to be legible for anyone to read. Signage should contain images and Braille and large print to help guide workers. Another way you can strengthen your plan is by offering audio instruction via public address system (PA system). These directions must be clear enough to lead individuals with disabilities unassisted to a general exit route, where they can seek assistance and safely exit the building.
The exit strategy must be safe for everyone to exit. If stairs are the only option for exiting the building, the employer should offer backup aids, such as a stair-descent device. Elevators should not be considered as an option to use in an emergency exit strategy.
Exit paths should be clear of any obstructions on the floor and overhead. All doors should be labelled accordingly. For example, workers with visual impairment would need brail on signage to direct them.
If a worker is immobilized or uses equipment or an assistive device, a volunteer must be contacted to assist the worker. Employers should offer a physical aid, such as an evacuation chair, in order to transport the individual to safety.
Workers with disabilities and volunteers must be trained on the emergency plan. The volunteer(s) will need to know how to provide assistance, and how to offer physical support properly.
Above all, it is the employers’ duty to protect their workers. Ensure compliance with the IASR by creating and implementing a workplace personalized emergency response plan for individuals with disabilities. Furthermore, it is best practice for employers to have an emergency response plan for all workers to know and follow. You never know when an emergency situation will happen. It is always best to have a plan in place and be prepared.