How to prepare your business for an emergency?

Reading time: 4,5min

Article Summary:

This article describes the responsibilities of organisational leaders to have an emergency plan in place to help raise awareness, strengthen the response possibilities of communities and reduce the impact of an emergency crisis.


Why Business Owners Need to Prepare for any Emergency

All small to medium business owners in Australia should be trying to prepare for any emergency which could affect their daily operations and put their employees in danger. Emergency plans and procedures to be applied in case of fires, hazardous substances spills, weather events, floods and other critical situations must be compliant with the current Australian regulations regarding safety in the workplace.

Precautions business owners can take to protect their employees

Whether you own a catering business, a child care facility, a hotel, a digital marketing company or an interior design studio, as a business owner, there are some precautionary measures you can take to protect your business:

  • Make sure you clearly understand the threats to your company and the potential costs of responding to them
  • Make sure your employees receive proper emergency preparedness information through emails, intranet, newsletters, or any other type of corporate communication.
  • Collaboration and good communication are essential for ensuring a coordinated response to any kind of emergency. So, make sure people in your organisation function as a team where each member knows their role in case of an emergency crisis.
  • Talk to employees with disabilities to make sure their particular needs are fulfilled in case of a disaster
  • Your staff needs to be trained. Training exercises will help you understand what procedures work and what are the emergency actions that still need adjustment.


What is an emergency action plan?

 According to Business.gov.au, an Emergency Action Plan (EAP) is the written document which addresses emergencies that might appear in the workplace and the procedures that must be followed under such circumstances. The EAP must be kept in writing in the workplace so that all employees can consult it at any time. The emergency continuity plan, the emergency recovery plan, and the EAP are all parts of the emergency management plan.

What should be included in an emergency plan?

 

A good emergency plan includes the following:

 

  • A correct assessment of the hazards and risks your business is subject to.
  • Ways to reduce these risks and hazards
  • Proper management of the resources available in case such extreme conditions should be dealt with
  • Establishing business continuity processes
  • Procedures for reporting an emergency
  • Procedures for emergency evacuations, including exit routes. Colour coding helps employees to find the right exit quickly
  • Floor plans with clearly indicated emergency escape routes
  • plant power supplies, plant water supplies that can’t be shut down immediately or need to be discontinued in stages
  • A detailed list of personnel, including their names, job titles, home telephone numbers, their duties and responsibilities.
  • Procedures to account for all employees after evacuation
  • Procedures to be followed by employees performing rescue or medical duties
  • An employee alarm system detained and controlled by the employer
  • An adequate number of wardens (one for every twenty employees is recommended)
  • Employers must make sure all employees know the details of the EAP.
  • Whenever the plan changes or the role of an employee is changed, the employee should be notified.

 

A poorly prepared plan will likely lead to a disorganised evacuation or emergency response, resulting in confusion, injury, and property damage. That is why, in case of emergency, employees need to know exactly what to do in order to survive and help others. After having been created, the emergency plan needs to be tested, evaluated and adjusted according to results.

 

According to Business.gov.au, these details should be checked during your test:

  • Does everybody in your staff know their role and their responsibilities in case of emergencies?
  • The emergency response team can be alerted to respond at any time, even in the middle of the night?
  • Are all the team members aware of the location of the emergency kit? Is this clearly visible and labelled accordingly?

 

An essential point for the success of a safety operation is knowing your audience so that you can address them the right message in the most efficient way.

The message you send to your low-level employees and your management staff may be different than the message sent to your on-site and off-site workers, suppliers, media etc. For example, in case of emergency, a school will send different messages in a different tone to school staff and parents or students,

 

To keep organisations connected and alert in crises, many companies use an emergency alert software with instant mass communication capabilities, which can be a life-saver.

 

What are the three steps for responding to an emergency?

 

The three necessary emergency action steps to follow to take appropriate actions in an emergency are Check-Call-Care:

 

  • Check the scene for any dangers to yourself or the victims. Put yourself and the others in a safe place, then check their consciousness and breathing and look for other apparent problems.
  • Call the local emergency number to activate the EMS system. You can do this while checking for safety and the victim’s condition.
  • Provide care to those in need. This might involve performing CPR and other first aid, as needed. If you are on the line with the dispatcher, they will talk you through any first aid required.

 

According to SafeWorkAustralia.gov, business owners should provide workers with first aid equipment/kits and facilities according to the type of work, the hazards, the number of the employees, the size and location of the workplace.

First aid kits should be held close to the areas where injuries may occur and should contain at least the basic first aid equipment, and even extra equipment

depending on the nature of the company and the activities involved. A first aid room may also be necessary, depending on the first aid risk assessment.

One first aider should be available:

 

  • For every 50 workers in low-risk workplaces (in an office)
  • For every 25 workers in high-risk workplaces (on a construction site)
  • For every ten workers in remote, high-risk workplaces (a mine).

 

In short, emergency planning includes all preventive actions, safety procedures, necessary resources and ways to deal with adverse situations in order to maintain positive control, to prevent human and material losses.  The purpose of emergency planning is to reduce the effect of destruction caused by unexpected situations like accidents, fire hazards, hurricanes, or hazardous substances spills.

 

Best practices should always include careful assessment of the dangers that might arise at the workplace, resource management, emergency planning, implementation, testing & exercises and program improvement.

 

emergency evacuation planning infographic

 
To use our infographic, please use the following link https://www.safetygraphics.com.au/?attachment_id=2260

 

 

Fire emergency

Don’t Risk it! Be Prepared for a Fire Emergency in Your Workplace

Reading time: 3.5 min

 

Article Summary:

This article describes the responsibilities of employers and organisations to provide a safe work environment referring to Australian legislation, regulations and standards.

Fire is a risk factor which must be taken into account in every workplace, but those risks can be managed and minimised through thorough preparation and a well-communicated evacuation plan.

Beyond physical risks for staff and employees, workplace fires destroy value and, depending on their severity, impact on business continuity.

Property, products, and equipment can be damaged and destroyed, along with information and intellectual property. There is also the risk of damage to the environment, the community, and ultimately to the brand value of the business.

This potential costs and losses of workplace fire mean that, beyond their legal obligations, organisations should seek to implement best practice preparation and prevention strategies as a priority.

All employers should know their obligations under Section 21 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 2004, which says the employer has a duty to provide a health and safe working environment.

Then there are a range of other regulations and standards which are relevant, from the Compliance Code, the Dangerous Goods Act, WorkSafe regulations and obligations under the Construction Code and for the handling of Hazardous Substances.

There are also a range of Australian Standards which focus on very specific areas, such as the nature and quality of equipment and mandatory emergency planning.

These regulations and standards lay out the compliance regime and parameters for a safe workplace and detail the employer’s responsibility, but in reality, compliance should just be a starting point for a comprehensive program of fire risk minimisation.

A good place to start is to look at causation factors.

  • Many fires, for example, can be attributed to malfunctions in electrical equipment through component failure, brought on by overwork, inappropriate use, poor maintenance or damage. Some equipment is simply too old, and its age becomes a danger factor.
  • Flammable materials stored or used incorrectly also pose a major risk.
  • In many cases, this is because of poor housekeeping when dangerous materials are allowed to accumulate in locations, such as exit routes, which can heighten the risk of fire.
  • Poor housekeeping also enables the accumulation of dust, such as flour dust, coal, and even dust from fabrics.
  • If this material is allowed to come into contact with fire, there is the potential for unforeseen explosions which can accelerate already dangerous situations.

In devising an action plan, organisations should recognise that employees can be part of the risk management solution.

Engaged employees participating in health and safety, either formally through committees or informally, are critical to organisational preparedness.

They can have input to a rigorous approach, which begins with the identification of hazards and moves through an assessment of risk to elimination and control and then to a review and evaluation process.

This process begins with inspections, the creation of detailed checklists and the distribution of relevant information through the workplace. In identifying hazards, all incidents must be recorded and logged so there is an organisational memory created.

Once the risks are assessed, a number of strategies should be pursued to eliminate or control the risk. These include audits on the design of the workplace and work processes and practices.

  • Should the workplace be reconfigured or redesigned?
  • Can work practices be improved to minimise risk?
  • Have professional organisations such as the Fire Brigade been engaged as part of this process to give advice on fire prevention?
  • Are all staff sufficiently aware and adequately trained in fire procedures?

Organisations should also consider opportunities for substituting materials to minimise risk. Fire-resistant furnishings and furniture can play a role here, and if possible, can less-flammable materials be used in the workplace without impacting on productivity and output?

A proactive risk approach also factors in issues around engineering, rigorous administration and ultimately the provision of personal protective clothing, and other equipment such as breathing apparatus.

Finally, the organisation needs a clear fire and emergency evacuation plan, as this will reduce the potential for injury and illness and help avoid panic.

With the full engagement relevant safety representatives, the emergency plan should be distributed to all employees as well as being posted on workplace notice boards.

The plan needs to cover action points, detail responsibilities on the raising of alarms, identify key leaders and include a notification and communications protocol.

Emergency plans work best when they are reviewed and updated, and when regular drills are conducted to remind employees of the risks, and what action they need to take in emergencies.

Fire is an ever-present risk and the consequences can be severe and wide-ranging. A rigorous, proactive and comprehensive plan which engages all staff can save lives and minimise commercial damage.

Just as organisations strive for best practice in the services they deliver and the products they make, so they should commit to best practice emergency planning.

tall building

Evacuation Procedures in tall buildings

High-rise buildings in major Australian cities pose several additional evacuation challenges. Because they are a unique scenario, it means they come with additional requirements. Buildings that are 24-40 floors high are required to have an entire floor dedicated to on-site refuge areas, and all high-rise buildings should be fireproof. This isn’t always the case, but it is the requirement. These buildings are also required to have Evacuation Procedures that are accessible by all, like slides, tubes and chutes. Read more

Where do Evacuation Plans need to be posted?

Evacuation Plans are the responsibility of every PCBU (Persons Conducting Business or Undertakings). If that’s you, you need to make sure that your employees, students, customers or visitors are going to be safe in the case of an emergency. The best way to do this is to have an Evacuation Plan. Read more

Australian Fire Safety Legislation

Australian Legislation requires that Fire Safety guidelines are adhered to across the country. These regulations exist to ensure the best possible result in the case of an emergency. Businesses and owners can face severe fines for not sticking to them. Read more

Emergency Procedures and Planning – What is it and why do we need it?

For many a Fire Safety Officer, planning for the unpredictable is second nature.

While it can be tough to tell when disaster might strike, it makes the process simple. If we don’t know when an emergency should occur, then procedures and plans must be put in place so that we are always ready to respond to an array of emergency situations. Read more