Regularly businesses throughout Australia decide to be proactive when it comes to dealing with emergencies. Establishing an emergency control organisation (Australian standard) (ECO) should probably be front and centre in relation to planning for emergencies.  In fact, legislation in all Australian states and territories require some sort of preparedness for emergencies. Designed to keep all workers safe from harm.

Time, money and the emergency control organisation

We often get inquiries asking what’s the minimum amount of emergency planning required to comply with workplace health and safety legislation. Our advice usually revolves around firstly conducting a risk assessment and associated analysis. However, “minimum” seems to imply that emergency planning won’t be given the time required to make it effective and keep people safe.

Public safety units of competency and there links to industry

A few decades ago, before workplace health and safety and other industrial bodies got together and established standard for emergency response in businesses. There was a void between the start of an emergency and the emergency services arriving on the scene. All too often (but not always), business managers and workers responded to emergencies inappropriately and lives and property were put at risk.

It was established, by public safety experts, that the void between the emergency incident occurring and the emergency services arriving had to be filled. Thus, the establishment of appropriate guidelines to help owners of businesses to fulfil their ‘duty of care’ to keep employees safe.


Australian Standards

Ultimately, the Australian Standard (AS) 3745 was put together to replace other outdated codes of practice. AS 3745 and other emergency management standards are referred to in legislation and are reviewed and refined regularly.

One of the limitations with this standard is generally emergency preparedness in facilities are self-governed by businesses. Therefore, preparations which help to mitigate associated risk is often seen as just another cost. Consequently, compliance with such legislation seems to be a little ad-hoc from one business to another.

Back in the ’70s, ’80s and 90’s – life-saving first aid was in a similar place, but has now been regulated. To remain current, a first aider is required to update skills regularly. If a person fails to complete such first aid updates their competency will lapse. Sometimes jeopardizing their employment. When this form of regulation also occurs in the private sector, relating to fire safety, personnel will be in a better position to deal with emergencies and keep themselves and others relatively safe.

Emergency Fire Warden unit of competence.

The industry experts that formulated the requirement for business have established training packages linked to the national training framework.

Even though, there’s much more detail in these packages than we can discuss here. We will start with the general knowledge overview required by emergency wardens when responding to emergencies.


Required Skill & Detail
 1. Respond to emergency reports, signals and warnings

[1.1]   Identify emergency reports signals and warning and take actions appropriate to the situation

[1.2]   Following workplace policy and procedure recognise that a situation is developing and provide an effective assessment

[1.3]   Assist people who are unable to assist themselves

[1.4]   Be present at emergency stations and operate it in accordance with workplace procedures

[1.5]   Identify one’s self with standard emergency equipment in accordance with workplace procedures
2. Initiate and take control of initial emergency response

(2.1)   Initiate initial emergency response within the scope of training and carry out authorized actions in accordance with workplace procedures.

(2.2)   Take action to check that evacuated areas are cleared as per workplace procedures

(2.3)   Report the success or failure of the evacuated area of responsibility in accordance with workplace procedures

(2.4)   Ensure that a roll call is taken or another method of determining that all persons within the area of responsibility are accounted for and success or failure is reported to the appropriate person as per workplace procedures

(2.5)   Ensure that persons not accounted for are reported to the appropriate person as per workplace procedures and policies

3. Anticipate the further development of a given emergency

(3.1)   Ensure that all responses to an emergency situation are in accordance with the scope of training and the emergency management plan. Providing analysis of the current and expected further development of the situation.

(3.2)   Continually carry out further assessment of the situation and report the escalation and/or the de-escalation of an emergency situation in accordance with the emergency management plan and workplace policies

4. Provide assistance with post initials response in line with recovery protocols

(4.1)   Ensure that an evacuation  or other response action is completed prior to the post-initial response activity is undertaken

(4.2)   Take appropriate action and activities to bring the situation to a conclusion and provide recovery support under the control of the appropriate person and emergency management plan.

One of the important aspects of emergency management in the workplace. Is to ensure those who are given responsibilities for emergency response. Have the required knowledge and skills to perform to a level as expected by industry standards. Which is designed to ensure employees and potentially the public are kept safe.


Some required skills & knowledge

Required Skill Emergency Warden Chief warden
Have the ability to relate to a range of people in a given workplace Yes Yes
Use established methods for accounting for people (evacuees) Yes Yes
Assist those that may require assistance Yes Yes
Carry out an established appropriate search pattern in a given area Yes Yes
Communicated clearly with other members of the team using workplace emergency procedures Yes Yes
Provide input into emergency planning where required Yes Yes
Exercise leadership within a given working environment and in a workplace emergency context Yes Yes
Use equipment assigned to be used during workplace emergencies or other situations Yes Yes
Determine and use evacuation priorities Yes Yes
Provide command and control to all members of the emergency control organisation (ECO) As required Yes
Have the ability to take on a leadership role Yes Yes
Make a decision appropriate to a given situation and keep others informed of developments. As required Yes
Give clear directions to emergency fire wardens under emergency conditions As required Yes
download planning for emergencies brochure
Emergency Planning Brochure

The above table lists only some of the skills and knowledge of the Emergency warden and chief emergency warden.

As you have probably determined by now. Emergency warden training is very generalized. Furthermore, to ensure that emergency management plans are effective it is important to contextualize them to your specific environment. I.e a large hardware store emergency management plan will be very different to that of a manufacturing factory or distribution warehouse.

Emergency services and the emergency warden

Those who make emergency response their career are certainly going to have experience and a high level of training specific to their work environment. After all, they will be responding to emergencies every day whilst on duty.

One cannot expect that those in business who are tasked with emergency response responsibilities, will be at a similar level of expertise. I’m sure, no one within the community would expect this level of expertise from an “emergency control organisation ”. Therefore, the roles and responsibilities given to emergency fire wardens must be specific and simple and be targeted at reducing risk, to firstly, “life”, and secondly, “property and environmental risk”.

Health and safety managers and other specialists

Even those tasked with managing risk within an industrial environment may have some knowledge and skill limitation. It should be recognized, that to effectively mitigate risk there may be a requirement to consult with a manager who has, as part of their career, responded regularly to an emergency situation. Scenarios and exercises can only go so far and must be viewed as one tool in the overall emergency management context.

In conclusion

The emergency control organisation (Australian standard) has a large role in managing the life risk at a given emergency. Even so, it is important that the emergency management plan is thorough and implemented using a specialist who is qualified and experienced.

For further information please call (03) 9005 1767

Main Fire Warden Post – Click here.


By Ken Walker

Hi, I'm Ken. I am the owner and senior director of Syncretic training Group Pty Ltd. If you have any questions about the website content or require guidance please let us know we are always happy to help.

One thought on “The Role of an Emergency Control Organisation in Australia”

Comments are closed.