This information explains how to prepare and plan for potential emergencies at your workplace. Emergency plans can control and reduce the risks to health and safety and reduce damage to property in the event of an emergency.
Identify potential emergencies
What could happen at your workplace or nearby to impact you, your workers and your infrastructure? Identify potential emergencies by considering:
- the work tasks done and any chemicals and plant used or stored at your workplace
- the hazards at your workplace
- the size and location of your workplace
- the number and composition of workers and others at your workplace.
Think beyond your own premises. For example, if one of your neighbours uses hazardous chemicals, a spill at their workplace might affect you. Or maybe a spill at your workplace will affect your neighbours. A building fire on an adjoining property or a bushfire may also be possibilities. And if you have workers out ‘in the field’, include procedures for managing off-site emergency situations.
Other emergency situations might include bomb threats and other threatening situations, vehicle collisions, or a medical emergency.
What to include
Your emergency plan should include:
- an effective response to an emergency
- evacuation procedures
- notifying emergency services organisations
- medical treatment and assistance
- effective communication between the authorised person who co-ordinates the emergency response and everyone else at the workplace and any neighbours who may be affected
- testing your emergency procedures, including how frequently you’ll do this
- information, training and instruction to your workers about implementing the emergency procedures.
Allocate emergency duties to staff who can manage the emergency situation. This includes fire warden or first aid officer. Their responsibilities, authority and accountability should be defined. Your emergency plan should list these people. Appoint fire wardens and first aid persons for any workers out ‘in the field’ too.
Tell your workers who these people are by email, posters, in staff meetings and in inductions.
Make sure these responsible people have helmets, hi-vis vests or other items that clearly identify them.
Informing emergency services
Fire fighters and other emergency services personnel may be exposed to the hazards at your workplace when they attend an emergency. Providing them with all the relevant information will help them reduce the risks to their health and safety and determine the best response to the emergency.
Tell them about:
- the qualities and locations of hazardous chemicals present (you should have a register or inventory covering this) and safety data sheets
- any dangerous plant, radiation sources, asbestos, restricted access points, drains, excavations, unstable grounds, or systems that may activate automatically.
Have a map or site plan that shows where your hazards are near your workplace’s entry. Any required placarding and signage you have up is also vital for emergency services.
You’ll need equipment appropriate to the potential emergency scenarios you’ve identified, and it needs to be located where it’s readily accessible by workers in the event of an emergency. Use signage so people can see where the equipment is kept.
You may need to seek advice from competent professionals and emergency services; also get them to regularly check what you put in place is still current and suitable.
Check the work health and safety laws to see if there are any requirements specific to the work and hazards in your workplace.
Make sure your emergency equipment, signage, lighting, fire extinguishers, sprinklers, fire hoses, alarm/detection/warning systems and so on are regularly inspected, tested and maintained. Inspection and testing intervals are usually specified in Australian and international standards.
Assess your first aid requirements: personnel, equipment, kits. The best way to do this is by using the First Aid in the Workplace code of practice. See resources below.
Your emergency plan needs to document your assessment, records of training, what equipment and kits are provided, and what you have in place for workers in the field.
Worker exposure to critical incidents
Don’t just think about fire extinguishers, first aid kits and evacuation drills. Think about your workers.
Critical incident stress management is required in many industries, such as emergency services, health care and banking. A critical incident can be defined as one that directly or indirectly causes significant distress to them, either at the time or after it occurs.
As part of your hazard identification and risk management process, identify the tasks or areas where workers may be exposed to critical incidents as part of their work. Define what a critical incident might be in your workplace.
Develop a policy, procedures and training to help workers who are at risk of being exposed to a critical incident.
Provide debriefing and counselling support, using appropriately trained personnel/services. Tell workers directly about these; you could display posters in your workplace, too.
Train your workers
All workers need to be trained in the relevant emergency procedures. As well as general evacuation drills for the entire workplace, some workers may need specific training and ‘rehearsals’: for example, workers required to work in confined spaces should know rescue and first aid procedures relevant to working in that environment.
People appointed to manage emergency situations need training so they have the skills, knowledge and confident to respond to an emergency immediately and competently. This includes using any emergency equipment and providing first aid.
Review your plans
To make sure they remain current and effective, review your emergency plans regularly or whenever there is a change in your workplace or in the surrounding businesses or environment.