HR Management & Compliance

Emergency Procedures: EEOC Issues Guidelines On Requesting Medical Information For Use In Planning Evacuations

Because of recent national events, many employers have been developing or revising their emergency procedures to help ensure that employees can be evacuated safely. One issue that arises is that some employees with medical conditions may need special assistance in an emergency. To help you plan more effectively to help these workers, the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has released guidelines for obtaining and using information about disabled workers’ needs for assistance in an emergency.

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What You Can Ask

According to the EEOC, you can ask employees to voluntarily tell you whether they will require assistance in an emergency because of a disability or medical condition. You can obtain this information in the following ways:

  1. After making a job offer but before employment begins, you can ask all prospective employees if they will need assistance during an emergency.


  2. You can periodically survey all current employees to determine who will need help in an emergency evacuation. You must make clear that self-identification is voluntary and explain why you’re requesting the information.


  3. You can ask employees with known disabilities whether they will need assistance in an emergency. The agency cautions you not to assume that everyone with an obvious disability will need assistance, and notes that people with disabilities are usually best able to determine their own needs. For example, some individuals who are blind prefer to walk down stairs unassisted.

If an employee indicates a need for assistance, you can ask what type of help will be needed, such as whether an employee with a respiratory condition should have a mask. The EEOC notes that in most cases you won’t need to know the details of an individual’s medical condition.Be sure to inform all employees that the information they disclose will be kept confidential and given only to those with specific responsibilities under your emergency evacuation plan.

Sharing Medical Information

The EEOC points out that you can provide medical information to first aid and safety personnel. Also, you can share information about the type of assistance someone needs with medical professionals, emergency coordinators, floor captains, evacuation “buddies,” building security officers and other nonmedical personnel responsible for ensuring safe evacuation. Be sure, however, only to disclose the specific information safety personnel need to fulfill their responsibilities under your evacuation plan.


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