Canadian Rental Service

What went Hong: Have an exit plan

By James Hong   

Features Tech tips

Evacuation muster points are an important part of your safety apparatus.

Muster stations are an integral part of your evacuation plan. They are areas designated for workers to assemble in the case of an emergency. Workers gathering at a muster point provide supervisors and safety officers the ability to do a roll call for a head count. The number can then be applied to the overall worker count. This informs the status numbers of any possible missing workers. The status is then communicated to emergency crews, who will do a search for the missing workers.

Every workplace requires an emergency evacuation plan that includes the evacuation route and muster stations. Muster points must be clearly marked on the evacuation plan either by the words “muster point” or an approved muster point symbol. The evacuation plan is to be posted in areas where emergency exits are obscured from sight and in high traffic doorways and exits either 78 inches above the floor, which is above workers’ heads, or 45 to 66 inches above the floor, which is at workers’ eye level. The evacuation plan and muster site locations should be included on your dedicated bulletin board with all your other safety information. The plan and muster points must be thoroughly explained to every new worker and new crew during orientation, which is required the first day of attendance.

Muster point determination is based on accessibility, size and safety considerations. Locations require easy access. They should be close to the building without hazards or obstacles in the way. They should also be placed far from immediate hazards and be large enough for all workers assigned to that point to gather without crowding or physical hazards.

Importantly, evacuation drills should be performed twice per year in permanent locations. When substantial chemicals and equipment are present the recommendation is every three months. 

The placement of evacuation signs is as important as worker awareness. Thousands of fatalities and injuries have resulted from lack of awareness of all hazards, and that includes ignorance about evacuation plans. The signage must be visible to all workers, which requires placement in a high traffic area without obstruction. Your workers need to be able to see the sign and understand the meaning instantly, which is why evacuation plan orientation works hand in hand with worker awareness.

Consider the size, placement , and viewing distance when placing your signs at eye level. A ten-by-seven-inch sign is readable from 21 feet. Fourteen-by-ten inches takes it out to 31.5 feet. Twelve-by-eight and 20-by-14 gets you to 42 feet. Sizes 24-by-18 and 24-by-24, at eye level, can be read up to 63 feet away. The size of your shop will impact the signs you need.

Another main factor is the implementation of the evacuation to muster points in a manner that prevents overreactions, to prevent stampeding and overcrowding which puts workers at further risk. 

And, last but never least, all evacuation plans require a dedicated safety officer to be responsible for managing all aspects of the evacuation muster points. This includes planning the evacuation traffic flow, mapping the evacuation routes, making evacuation roll calls, maintaining communication with emergency crews for missing workers and record-keeping and dissemination for safety board analysis afterwards.

In all emergencies, let’s know where to go, how to get there safely and what to do when we get there. Be safe. Be well. 

James Hong is an OH&S consultant, independent writer and journalist.

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