Why emergency procedures need to be developed
Emergency situations such as serious injuries, explosion, flood, poisoning, electrocution, fire, release of radioactivity and chemical spills etc., must be considered as part of the risk assessment process. Appropriate emergency procedures can then be put in place and maintained. Workplaces need a plan for emergencies that can have a broader impact.
The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 contain general requirements for emergency planning. They require the employer to have emergency procedures to be followed in the event of serious and imminent danger. These procedures should also include instructions as to who and how the emergency services should be contacted and what information should be passed on. This will ensure accurate information is given, reducing the possibility of confusion and any unnecessary delay. Contacting the relevant emergency services before any emergency occurs may also be necessary. This will give them prior knowledge of the operations, procedures and materials/substances at the premises, thus helping to ensure a correct and prompt response in an emergency.
Suppose things go wrong, putting people and property at serious risk. In that case, actions must be taken swiftly to deal with the situation and/or ensure personnel are evacuated efficiently and safely. Quick and effective action may help to ease the situation and reduce the consequences. However, in emergencies, people are more likely to respond reliably if they:
- are well trained and competent;
- take part in regular and realistic practice;
- have clearly agreed, recorded and rehearsed plans, actions and responsibilities.
What to include in an emergency procedure
When drawing up emergency procedures, the list provided here should point you in the right direction. Where an employer shares the workplace with another employer, they should consider whether the emergency plans and procedures should be coordinated.
Consider what might happen and how the alarm will be raised. Don’t forget night and shift work, weekends and times when the premises are closed, e.g. holidays.
Plan what to do, including how to call the emergency services. Help them by clearly marking the premises from the road. Consider drawing up a simple plan showing the location of hazardous items.
If the employer has 25 tonnes or more of dangerous substances, they must notify the fire and rescue service. And put up warning signs.
Place of safety
Decide where to go to reach a place of safety or to get rescue equipment. The employer must provide suitable forms of emergency lighting.
Means of escape
The employer must make sure there are enough emergency exits for everyone to escape quickly and keep emergency doors and escape routes unobstructed and clearly marked.
Nominate competent people to take control (a competent person is someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience). Decide which other key people are needed, such as a nominated incident controller, someone who is able to provide technical and other site-specific information if necessary, or first-aiders.
Shutdowns and isolations
Plan essential actions such as emergency plant shutdown, isolation or making processes safe. Clearly identify important items like shut-off valves and electrical isolators etc.
Training and drills
The employer must train everyone in emergency procedures. Don’t forget the needs of people with disabilities and vulnerable workers.
Work should not resume after an emergency if danger remains. If there are any doubts, ask for assistance from the emergency services.
Why people need training and emergency procedures need to be tested
Knowledge and skills will inevitably degrade over time, so it’s essential that regular training is provided in dealing with emergency situations and administering first-aid. Dealing with emergencies can obviously be stressful. Being well-trained and having been provided with the opportunity to practice and rehearse means that staff should be able to respond to emergencies and handle the situation more effectively and efficiently. Regular drills of emergency situations will enable a company to critically evaluate the effectiveness of their procedures and identify areas where improvements need to be made. It’s quite possible that once an emergency procedure has been practised for the first time, there could be many things that did not happen as anticipated.