High-stakes work environments pose a serious threat to workers' safety on a daily basis. From people who work at oil rigs (offshore and onshore) to firefighters responding to all sorts of emergencies (most recently the wildfires in California)—all of them face intense pressure with the added burden of lugging heavy equipment into and out of hazardous environments. And while the immediate threat to their personal safety is stressful in its own right, they have to deal with a variety of other hazards like exhaustion, extreme temperatures, and hazardous chemicals.
As a result of the intense demand and pressure of these jobs, accidents and injuries still occur do to human error far too often. Fortunately, safety standards for industrial workplaces exist to help mitigate the risks associated with working in hazardous environments. But even with good work practices, skilled and experienced people are still prone to make mistakes when the plan changes in the middle of operations. While usually a communication issue, a change in plan or procedures increases the risk of incidents occurring on the job.
Employees need to know how to stay safe when plans change in these high-risk, high-stakes workplaces. They can do it by following this guide.
Develop an Emergency Action Plan
The best course of action for any workplace is to plan for the best but prepare for the worst. Sudden changes in operation or command would go over smoothly if every single employee is well-versed on how to deal with changes in operations or during emergency situations. Developing an emergency action plan, therefore, is essential in workplaces, high-stakes or not.
Part of creating an action plan is considering all the potential errors that could happen on site, and how these errors can affect the chain of command or operating procedure. The plan should also contain a list of key personnel and their contact information. These simple things help ensure that workers have something to base their actions on in times of crisis.
Assess the Situation
It's crucial first to pause and assess the situation you're in when a change occurs at your worksite. Identify the magnitude of the problems so you can develop appropriate measures to address them. When you or your fellow workers' safety is at stake, getting all the details can help you plan what priority actions you need to take.
Part of assessing the situation is knowing where you are in the chain of command. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, this establishes who's in charge and ensures that everyone responds to an emergency in an organized way. Even if you aren't an emergency scene commander, it's still vital that you do what you can to help ensure the safety of everyone on site.
Remove Yourself and Others From Danger
As mentioned earlier, a change of plans due to human error can confuse employees, causing them to panic and not think clearly. If this happens while you or others are at risk of being harmed, leave the situation immediately.
It's important to remember that in an unprecedented situation, elements are likely to change suddenly. Evaluating the change to your work, whether an operational change handed down by management or due to an unplanned emergency situation can help you respond appropriately.
Finally, Seek Help
Once you've established that you're in an area that's safe enough, seek help. Situations can get out of hand quickly, so it's better to staunch the damage as early as possible. This way, you can also address any medical situations you or your companions need.
Overall, the key to safely adapting to changes in a treacherous workplace is to be alert and informed. A clear mind that you can rely on to assess the situation and plan for your safety goes a long way in risky situations.