New York’s theater district has been put on alert of future requirements during inspections from OSHA. Sixty-three theaters in New York received notice in the form of an April 15th letter from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, “Recent events, such as last summer’s attempted car bomb in Times Square, have highlighted the need for increased vigilance and ongoing emergency preparedness”. This statement refers to an incident which occurred in May 2010 when several theaters had to be evacuated in response to a smoldering car found in the area.
The letter which reportedly does not target specific theaters but rather the entire theater district was issued in response to December 2010 report which pointed out the need for improved plans to aid workers in the event of an emergency. The report which was prepared by New York state Assembly subcommittee on workplace safety was initiated by concerned employees of the theater district over current plans and procedures in place. A reexamination of present plans is believed to be needed to ensure workers have the information needed to safely evacuate should a natural or man made disaster occur.
Since individual theaters were not named in the letter, it has been recommended that OSHA, “issue clearer guidance on which theaters are required to establish Emergency Action Plans”. Although this might make it easier for individual theaters to be in compliance during inspections, emergency preparedness and evacuation plans should be a priority for every business, regardless of OSHA “requirements”. To reduce the risk of injury or death to workers and the public at large, every employer should have a plan of action in the event of an emergency. This should not only include evacuation plans but also a detailed description of which employees are responsible for various evacuation actions. Should assistance be required by other workers or the public, employees must be made aware of their responsibility before disaster strikes.