As a trained and qualified OHS professional, you will know exactly how to manage these situations.
Here are some helpful guidelines that may prepare you for dealing with emergencies in your workplace.
This guideline touches on categorising major types of emergencies and identifying the actions required to limit impact on personnel, property and the environment.
It is important to categorise the major types of emergencies as this assists in implementing options for initial response.
An Australian Standard has been produced to allow emergencies to be grouped into categories. These categories will determine the level of response that is appropriate to a given potential emergency.
Not all emergencies will have a stock standard response. For example, in the case of an injury, an evacuation of other personnel may not occur in nearby work areas.
The types of emergencies which could occur may include:
- serious injury events;
- medical emergencies such as heart attacks;
- site or area evacuations;
- fires and explosions;
- hazardous substances and chemical spills;
- explosions and bomb threats;
- security emergencies, such as armed robbery, intruders and disturbed persons;
- loss of power or structural collapse;
- natural disasters such as floods, storms and bushfires;
- traffic accidents;
- landslides or wall collapses; and
It is vital to identify the actions required to limit impact on personnel, property and the environment.
Appropriately resourced organisations with a dependable emergency response team will limit the effect of damage or harm to people, property and the environment. Emergency response roles need to address actions to minimise catastrophe to personnel, property and environment.
The first priority is always people and their safety. In an emergency, all personnel need to know what their role is and where they should go. This requires a step by step list of actions that clearly identifies everyone’s role in an emergency.
Dissemination of this information is critical. Everyone on site must be aware of the role/s they will play in emergency response.
Clarification and understanding of role responsibilities and accountabilities is essential.
Some of the ways this information can be communicated throughout the workforce is via:
- training (including mock emergency responses conducted on a regular basis);
- inductions, induction testing;
- job descriptions; and
Issues which must be addressed to limit the risk of injury and assist those involved to reach safety would include the following.
- Ensuring emergency evacuation plans are visible and understood by all employees. This implies adequate and repeated training at inductions, training, refreshers and mock evacuations.
- Ensuring cultural and ethnic profiles are appreciated by all stakeholders and identified – ensure that written or verbal instructions are understood.
- Identifying personnel with special needs – ensure personnel are able to see or hear the alarm if they have sight or hearing impairment.
- Has a mentor been appointed to assist them during an evacuation?
- Establishing emergency assembly points and alternatives.
- Locating assembly points near large gas storage tanks would demonstrate a lack of understanding of the term ‘safety.’ The need to address the ‘what if’ scenarios are part of good contingency planning.
- Ensuring procedures are in place to ensure a head count of all personnel is both possible and accurate. What about visitors to site? What procedures are in place for their identification on site and their evacuation?
- Considering the ability of external emergency and other first responders to navigate in unfamiliar territory.
- Preparing an inventory/register and location map together with other relevant information on gases, toxic substances and chemicals located on the site that may affect their containment strategies and tactics.
Actions and procedures need to be identified and communicated that limit the effect of potential emergencies on property.
This includes the following.
Identification of the specific emergency:
- Chemical spill
The Level of response required:
- Total evacuation
- Isolation of Hazard.
Who to notify:
- Fire Brigade.
- Alternative contacts identified and listed with contact details.
What needs to be shut down to minimise potential adverse impact:
- Under what circumstances?
- Who is responsible?
- What procedures are there or need to be developed?
Other issues may involve ensuring control measures are in place such as storage of all hazardous and toxic materials must conform to standards, eg, bunding for fuel storage, separation of oxidising and fuel gases, and flame proof cabinets.
Environmental issues need to be considered for containment methods, for example, to prevent:
- Toxic fumes escaping into the atmosphere and adversely affecting the surrounding community;
- Waterways being contaminated by toxic substances or oil; or
- Hazardous and toxic materials entering storm water drains.
- Confined space accidents.
Are intervention systems and waste separators installed and do they meet the required standards?
Geographical location is also an issue. Consider how far away you are away from help arriving. What is the time frame for the arrival of emergency services (ambulance, fire brigade)? This will affect your planning and response to secure the safety of personnel.
Higher levels of training will be necessary if there is a need for greater self-reliance.
A simple chart can be developed as a tool to help identify the level of impact and workplace vulnerability for a potential emergency. It can also be used to assist in identifying the necessary resources.
I hope this gives you some ideas on initially preparing your workplace for potential emergencies.
For more information on workplace safety standards you can visit this link here and this covers standards in OHS for each state in Australia.
Published by: LMIT