Tips for Developing a Workplace Incident Response Plan
No matter what industry you’re in, it never hurts to hope for the best – and plan for the worst. This is why so many businesses foster a workplace safety culture, or emphasize training for their employees. But when it comes to outlining a concrete incident response plan, what actually needs to be included? The plan should be broad enough to cover a variety of situations, but also specific enough to direct individual response efforts in the most efficient way possible.
Another thing to note about incident response plans is that they should be tailored for each company. Many businesses have incident response plans on file just to keep the insurance companies happy, but that doesn’t do them much good once it’s time for the rubber to meet the road. Instead, an incident response plan should be thoroughly developed, tested, and updated to reflect any changes.
One organization could develop an incident response plan that details the steps to take in the event of a cyberattack, while another could have an incident response plan to address work-related injuries. What kind of incident response plan could your company benefit from? Here are some tips to help get the ball rolling.
Explore this Article:
- Tip #1: Establish Your Company’s Definition of an “Incident”
- Tip #2: Develop and Distribute an Incident Response Contact List
- Tip #3: Build an Emergency Kit
- Tip #4: Specify the Responsibilities of Key Leaders During a Workplace Incident Response
- Tip #5: Include a Plan for Streamlined Communication
- Tip #6: Determine How the Incident Will be Recorded or Reported
- Tip #7: Decide How the Incident Response Plan Will be Updated
- What Could Your Company’s Workplace Incident Response Plan Look Like?
It’s important to distinguish between incidents vs. accidents. An “incident” is an unexpected event that could have caused injury or significant losses. This isn’t quite the same thing as an “accident”, which is an unexpected event that did cause injury or significant losses.
What you need to do is establish what “incident” means for your organization. If you have an incident response plan in place that gets triggered in certain situations, it’s crucial to know what those situations are (and aren’t).
Otherwise, the response plan could be triggered without sufficient reason – or it could be delayed while the definition of “incident” gets debated by those at the scene. For example, let’s say someone recognizes the symptoms of heat-related illness in a co-worker. Is it time to activate the incident response plan, or would that be overkill? The same goes for equipment malfunction, a cybersecurity breach, or anything that puts the company or its employees at risk. With a clear definition of what does and doesn’t constitute an “incident”, the best decision can be made without wasting time.
In order to coordinate an incident response in the workplace, you’ll have to communicate with the right people. If you’re in the middle of a tense situation, however, that’s hardly the time to be asking around for so-and-so’s phone number. Whether you post it on the wall in the breakroom, or send it via email, a contact list will facilitate communications when responding to an incident.
- A master list of everyone in the company, including contact information
- A list of people to contact in specific situations
- A list of anyone with relevant skills or certifications (such as CPR or other medical training, experience as a firefighter, etc.)
- A map and instructions for an evacuation plan
- First-aid supplies
There are plenty of other useful items that could be included in a go-kit like this, but less is more here. This kit will likely be used in fast-paced, stressful situations, so you don’t want to complicate matters with an overabundance of “helpful” items.
When you’re responding to an incident, certain tasks will have to be performed (depending on the severity of the incident). It might be necessary to call emergency services, notify emergency contacts, or even handle news outlets as they flock to the scene of an accident. Who takes care of what? The way you assign responsibility to leadership figures will have a big impact on the effectiveness of your workplace incident response plan.
A big part of making any incident response run smoothly is knowing who to call, and when to call them. For instance, if fire breaks out at a construction site, key stakeholders should be notified before the insurance company gets called – and both of those things should only happen after the fire department arrives. If an employee is injured while at work, the first priority should be calling an ambulance, not notifying upper management.
Regardless of the nature of the incident, it’ll likely have to be officially reported in some way. Documenting the incident for insurance purposes will be necessary, and OSHA requires companies to fill out specific forms in the event of a work-related injury.
There’s also the matter of internal reporting. Your company may even designate an incident investigation team to speak with witnesses, establish a timeline of events, and compile an official report. This helps set the story straight from the beginning, and minimizes subsequent confusion due to conflicting information.
It’s one thing to establish that your incident response plan should be regularly updated; it’s another thing to actually do it. When it’s time to respond to an incident, will you be working from a list of current contacts, or will a third of those phone numbers be invalid? Do the assigned responsibilities reflect your company’s leadership organization, or did last year’s restructure render the plan obsolete?
To avoid getting stuck with outdated lists and irrelevant plans, decide how the incident response plan will be maintained. This includes picking the right person (or people) to be in charge of the task, as well as deciding how often it should be done. The job could be completed periodically, or whenever changes within the company affect the functionality of the response plan. Whatever you end up doing, the main thing is that it gets done.
Even if you already have one in place, there’s always room to improve an incident response plan. Some industries are more vulnerable to cyberattacks, while others involve a higher risk of physical injury to their employees. Whatever the case, a workplace incident response plan can help any organization address unexpected situations, instead of simply reacting to them.