Environment, Health, and Safety Careers

Emergency Preparedness

Preparation for Emergencies

Emergency Preparedness Program & Resources


The importance of an effective workplace safety and health program cannot be overemphasized. There are many benefits from such a program, including increased productivity, improved employee morale, reduced absenteeism and illness, and reduced workers’ compensation rates. Unfortunately, workplace accidents and illnesses still occur in spite of efforts to prevent them, and proper planning is necessary to effectively respond to emergencies.

Several Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards explicitly require employers to have emergency action plans for their workplaces. Emergency preparedness is a well-known concept in protecting workers’ safety and health. To help employers, safety and health professionals, training directors, and others, the OSHA requirements for emergencies are compiled and summarized in OSHA’s Principal Emergency Response and Preparedness Requirements and Guidance booklet.

This publication provides a generic, non-exhaustive overview of OSHA standards for emergencies. It is not intended to alter or determine compliance responsibilities in OSHA standards or the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Please review the current OSHA standards applicable to your work operations to ensure your compliance.

NOTE: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) imposes specific obligations on employers relative to employment of individuals with disabilities. The United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s website provides employer resources for addressing ADA requirements in private workplaces, including “Enforcement Guidance on Reasonable Accommodations.” The Job Accommodations Network publication Emergency Evacuation Procedures for Employees with Disabilities provides planning information and resources on emergency procedures for employees with disabilities.

NOTE: Emergency responder health and safety is currently regulated primarily under the following standards: The fire brigade standard (29 CFR 1910.156); hazardous waste operations and emergency response (29 CFR 1910.120); the respiratory protection standard (29 CFR 1910.134); the permit-required confined space standard (29 CFR 1910.146); and the bloodborne pathogens standard (29 CFR 1910.1030). Some of these standards were published decades ago and none were designed as comprehensive emergency response standards. Consequently, they do not address the full range of hazards or concerns currently facing emergency responders. Many do not reflect major changes in performance specifications for protective clothing and equipment. Current OSHA standards also do not reflect all the major developments in safety and health practices that have already been accepted by the emergency response community and incorporated into National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and American National Standards Institute consensus standards. OSHA is now collecting information to evaluate what action the agency should take to update the standards.

Regulations / Directives / Training