The Retail Industry + the Emergency Action Plan Requirements

Steve Bassine

Retail companies are required to have an Emergency Action Plan, however, many companies neglect to create or implement one.

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An armed man attempted to enter a manager’s office at a retail clothing store. The manager and a handful of employees locked themselves in the office to call 911, while the five customers were told to evacuate through the main doors. The gunman left the building undetected, and unfortunately without being apprehended by authorities.

This emergency situation ended without incident, however, the scenario could have resulted differently. The example highlights the need for a tailored, exercised, and site-specific emergency management program for both large and small retail centers. With a degree of forethought and planning, each potential threat should result in dedicated emergency response procedures. Emergency situations in a retail center can include, but is not limited to the following:

  • Armed offender
  • Fire
  • Severe weather
  • Crowd control
  • Lost/kidnapped child
  • Power failure
  • Bomb threat
  • Suspicious package
  • Natural gas leak

Many retail companies postpone or fail to develop and implement an emergency action plan. However, the Occupational, Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires a written emergency action plan for companies with more than 10 employees.

An emergency action plan must communicate the following:

  • Procedures for emergency evacuation, including type of evacuation and exit route assignments (29 CFR 1910.38(c)(2))
  • Procedures to be followed by employees who remain to operate critical operations before they evacuate (29 CFR 1910.38(c)(3))
  • Procedures to account for all employees after evacuation (29 CFR 1910.38(c)(4))
  • Procedures to be followed by employees performing rescue or medical duties (29 CFR 1910.38(c)(5))
  • Means of reporting fires or other emergencies (29 CFR 1910.38(c)(1))
  • The name or job title of every employee who may be contacted by employees who need more information about the plan or an explanation of their duties under the plan (29 CFR 1910.38(c)(6))

By instituting OSHA’s required emergency action plan and incorporating its elements in an effective emergency management program, companies can take a proactive stance towards improving customer and employee safety, and reducing the impact from an emergency situation.

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