Top 10 Things You Should Know About Muster Points
Deciding on the right location for your muster point is important, but so is clear and regular communication about your company's evacuation procedures.
A muster point is a designated place where everyone in a facility can safely assemble and take shelter in the event of an emergency.
When a worksite needs to be evacuated, leaving the premises is only one part of it. All the evacuees also need to know where to go. That's the purpose of a muster point: it gives everyone a safe place to gather and be accounted for.
It sounds simple enough, but choosing a muster point can't be done haphazardly. There are a number of things to consider when finding a suitable location.
So, let's take a look at some of those. Here are ten things you should know about muster points and ensuring that everyone in your facility has a safe spot to gather when things go wrong.
1. A Risk Assessment Comes First
Before designating any area as a muster point, you first have to make sure that none of the evacuees will be put in harm's way in that area or while making their way to it.
Conducting a thorough risk assessment will give you an inventory of hazards that you can consult when you creating your evacuation plan.
2. Any Muster Point Must Be Located in a Safe and Visible Area
Muster points must be located near the facility so they can be reached quickly, but also at a safe enough distance. A good rule of thumb is to make sure the distance is at least 1.5 times the height of the building, which should prevent fire, smoke, collapsing walls, or flying debris from harming anyone assembled at the muster point. If there is a risk of explosion, chemical spills, or hazardous fumes, a greater distance might be needed.
It must also be located in a spot that will not interfere with emergency vehicles, even when it is packed with evacuees.
Avoid using an area that could expose evacuees to additional hazards, such as overhead power lines, vehicle traffic, and hazardous terrain.
The muster point also needs to be large enough to comfortably accommodate anyone who may be on the worksite, including customers, contractors, and visitors. This may seem obvious, but it's easy to underestimate how much space is needed in the planning stages, only to run into problems during an emergency. Larger facilities will need multiple muster points at strategic location to prevent crowding and confusion, and to reduce evacuation time.
(Learn more in What Should Be Included in Your Emergency Management Plan)
3. Maps of the Best Evacuation Route Should Be Posted Near Exits
If the building or worksite is large or complicated to navigate, exits and stairwells should have maps depicting the best path to the muster point.
The evacuation plan, however, should include alternative routes in case anything prevents the evacuees from following the designated path.
Reaching the muster point might seem simple, but things are very different during an emergency. Stress, panic, and emotions can short circuit anyone's common sense and make it difficult for them to find their way through a facility they normally know very well. Maps also help visitors who are less familiar with your site get to safety.
4. Muster Points Must Be Marked Clearly
Don't count on everyone remembering exactly where the muster points are. Mark each with a sign that is mounted high enough to be seen above people or vehicles, and large enough that it can be spotted even in poor lighting conditions. Reflecting lettering or additional lighting is recommended. Signs that glow in the dark are especially useful, since they can be seen even during a power outage.
The standard design for muster point signs is a green background with people in the center and four white arrows pointing at them.
If there are multiple employers in proximity, it's a good idea to add your company logo to the sign to minimize confusion.
(Find out How to Master the Science of Sign Visibility)
5. Communication Is Part of a Complete Muster Point Plan
While you know what a muster point is and how to recognize one, many people are not aware of their purpose or importance.
Information about muster points should be part of your new employee orientation program. Visitors to the site and temporary workers should also be made aware of muster points and evacuation procedures. Even if they're only briefly on site, an emergency can happen at any time and it pays to be fully prepared.
Don't treat communication as one-and-done, however. Remind your workers of emergency procedures and the importance of the muster points on a regular basis. Make it clear that they not only have to gather to that area during an emergency, but also remain there until they receive instructions from company officials or emergency personnel.
6. Multiple Muster Points Can Cause Confusion
If your workplace is a large industrial site or a complex facility like a college or hospital, it will require more than one muster point.
This can cause confusion, however, with employees not being sure where to gather after leaving the facility. There's no clear standard for this - muster points might be assigned based on the floor, the department, or the area of the building. In any case, you must make sure every worker knows which muster point to use in order to minimizing overcrowding and confusion during an emergency.
Workers should also be reminded that muster points are assigned to areas in the facility, not individual workers. When they move around the worksite, they must evacuate to the right muster point and not the one corresponding to their usual post.
7. Safe Access to the Muster Point Should Be a Priority
Evacuation routes should be clearly identified, free from clutter and obstructions, and have emergency lighting to assist with a safe exit. Displaying maps to the muster point along the evacuation route is also advisable.
Every floor of the facility requires at least two exits from hazardous areas. These exits must be marked with exit signs and lead toward the muster point. No one should have to re-enter the building to reach the muster point.
The emergency evacuation plan must also have provisions in place to ensure that workers with restricted mobility have the assistance they need to get out of the building and make it to the gathering site safely and in a timely manner.
8. Assembling Isn't Enough - You Also Need a Roll Call
During an emergency, the number one priority is getting everyone to the muster point safely. However, that involves more than just opening the exit doors and telling everyone to walk out in an orderly fashion. You also need to account for everyone who was on the worksite and make sure no one has been left behind.
To do this, whoever has been assigned as the muster point captain will perform a roll call, armed with a clipboard and a list of everyone's names. This will usually be the supervisor or safety manager, but anyone can volunteer to take on the role.
The captain should wear a brightly colored safety vest and act as the point of contact for the first responders. They can inform them if anyone is missing and may still be in the facility.
9. Rehearsals Are Worth the Time
A muster plan will only work if it is executed properly, but it probably won't be unless you've run through evacuation drills.
Quarterly drills will ensure that your employees are familiar with the safe evacuation process and the route to the muster point. It will give supervisors a good sense of their role during emergencies.
Putting your plan into action also gives you an opportunity to review its efficacy. If the evacuation takes longer than planned, if there are obstacles that haven't been accounted for, if there are hazards near the muster point, these problems will all be uncovered during the drills.
10. Muster Point Information Should Be Shared with Visitors
Visitors, contractors, and temporary workers must all be made aware of the muster point's location, the best route to reach it, and every other step of your evacuation procedure.
Remember, during emergency situations, you're responsible for everyone's safety, not just the wellbeing of your staff.
Muster points are a critical component to every emergency plan. They must be clearly identified and easy to find. Safe evacuation from a building or worksite followed by organized assembly requires consideration for your particular workplace, type of work, potential hazards, and external threats. Make sure that your organization rehearses muster point assembly on a regular basis so everyone can be fully prepared when they face a real emergency.