Planning for Emergencies in the Workplace - STG Fire Safety

8 Way to Plan for Emergencies in the Workplace

Ken Walker

workplace-health-safety-during-emergencies

We have spoken about the many aspects of planning for emergencies in the workplace in past blog articles. This goal of this article will be to again outline many of the key function of an emergency management plan but will give an overall summary of the emergency management process of planning for emergencies in facilities.

1. The scope of the emergency management planning process

Even though such plans generally concentrate on the life risk within a facility (as is appropriate). There are many other aspects of emergency management that ultimately be considered and in turn provide better human quality of life outcomes.

risk management Australian standard

As such, Australian Standard 3745 may provide the basis for emergency planning in facilities. But there are other Australian Standards relating to analysis and contextualization the overall plan including:

  1. Risk management – Principles and Guidelines
  2. Business Continuity – – Managing disruption related risk

This isn’t an exhaustive list there are also many other state-based documents to give practitioners guidance. Furthermore, Australian Standards are just and important theoretical guide. 

I’m not trying to undermine there importance but it does take a person experienced in general and critical emergency response and associated risk management principles. To effectively link all the relevant parts together. Thus, ensuring that the finalised emergency management plan is workable and contextualized to the organisation or workplace it serves.

2. Outcomes that look good and are workable

The one part of the overall process and subsequent review must take into account those members of the emergency control organisation (ECO) who will be the ones using such a plan. Without a method or system for the ECO to provide feedback and reviews will potentially limit the effectiveness of the emergency management plan. 

Australian Standard 3745 refers to communication flow many times in a number of contexts and systems. Therefore, communicating information from the ECO to emergency planning committee (EPC) is just another system that should be put in place. Often processes and systems associated with debriefing fulfil this need.

3. How the scope of an Australian Standard may impact the workability of a report

All too often when looking for references in documents (Australian Standards) to provide guidance for a given situation. There is a tendency to refer to the content section and go straight to the appropriate reference area. 

It can be problematic to not first understand the scope of the document. I.e. to only refer to the principles of risk management standard would leave many important emergency management aspects not covered when. 

To clarify this statement, if the general scope of standards for risk management and planning for emergencies in facilities are compared – one generally speaks about analysis and the other about the process of establishing a response to emergencies. Both are very important and should be referred to together and not in isolation. 

Therefore, an understanding of the purpose and scope of an Australian standard is essential to establish a workable and thorough document.

 4. Where does a glossary and list of acronyms fit in

Within the emergency management field, there are a number of specific words and acronyms used. I.e. Fire Indicator Panel or FIP. This term is standard and referred to by firefighters and facility occupants who have an understanding of building layouts. All members of the ECO should have a working knowledge of such information.

One of the positive aspects of understanding what terms mean is that during emergencies they can be referred to with less chatter of radios or other communication systems. Making for enhanced control and coordination of an emergency response.

Plan Do Check Adjust

5. The function and importance of the EPC

Section Two of Australian Standard 3745-2010 relates to the establishment and function of the Emergency Planning Committee. The functions of Command, Control and Coordination have been established over many centuries and become standard terms throughout the emergency services and military. 

A few decades ago initial emergency response in facilities was very ad-hoc with very few organisation providing coordinated actions during emergencies. There was a real void from the time the emergency occurred to the first emergency service personnel arriving on the scene. A void that needs to be filled.

Thus, it becomes law, under work health and safety legislation, that business owners establish an organisation of responders who sit outside the normal management structure and are responsible for life safety. With secondary concerns relating to property and environmental protection.

Firstly, the EPC is has a number of responsibilities. Note: the owners of the business are still accountable. 

These responsibilities generally revolve around preparedness, response and recovery to emergencies. It seems very broad which it is, in other word they are tasked with managing, document and testing plans for emergencies. Everything from establishing the ECO or human resources aspect of emergency response to establishing budgetary requirements for the organisation to function effectively. 

AS 3745-2010 provides business owners with guidance on the establishment and function of the EPC. It’s a real shame this Australian Standard isn’t free to all business owners. Which may help the organisation keep this within their facility safer. Even so, it is a great guide and business owners would find benefit in purchasing a copy. The price is around $220 inc GST  (approx $3.40 per page!)

There is also a number of brochures on emergency services website, generally for free, which interpret and also provide guidance to business owners. An example of one is monitoring alarms – Click here for a copy.

Emergency Preparedness for Persons with Disabilities

6. An overview of what should be in an emergency plan

It would be possible to write many books on what should be included in an emergency management plan for a facility. So what we will do is just briefly summarise some of the more important sections. Much of this information is taken from AS3745-2010.

Purpose and Scope:

This provides an overview of a specific facility and contextualises the plan to the requirements of the facility

Structure and purpose of the Emergency Planning committee

Lays down the basic guidelines for the establishment and functioning of the Emergency Planning Committee. I.e. what the specific roles and responsibilities of each member of the committee.

Fire safety features and other information about the facility

This outlines some of the passive and active safety features provided under the state and federal building codes. Its establishes the specific context of such risk and threat to life and property.

 Provides documented administrative features

Within this section there will be information on who will be given a copy, the validity period of the emergency management plan; date of issue and general information about the occupancy I.e. hours of operation etc.

7. Information relating to emergency response and active safety measures

Emergency response and procedures

This provides guidance to the ECO in relation to their roles and responsibilities. Also what equipment they will have available to promote effective evacuation during emergencies and including appropriate diagrams and other resources

Electrical rescue and resuscitation training

8. Training Arrangements

Training is one method of building confidence amongst the ECO and occupants. So an established training and exercise regime would be listed to ensure the objectives of owners is achieved. Such training arrangements are only effective if every occupant of the building is included. 

Emergency Response Exercises

Initial testing of the emergency management plan and an ongoing program of exercises to establish confidence amongst all occupants.

Review and Routine Servicing

Generally a guide to the EPC in relation to establishing programs to update the emergency plan on a regular basis.

In conclusion.

The processes and systems may seem a bit complex. Even so, once an organisation carries out a risk assessment and establishes an EPC it is likely that the emergency management plan content and requirement will flow easily from that information. There is no need for the emergency plan to be a very large document but it should be workable and easily understood.

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