Related topics

Under health and safety legislation in all jurisdictions, you have a legal obligation to take all reasonable steps to eliminate or reduce the likelihood of a fire or explosion. You must also ensure you are prepared for a fire or explosion and that you will notify your health and safety regulator if a fire-related incident occurs.

Are you aware that if your business operates in jurisdictions under the Work Health and Safety Act(2011) (WHS Act), officers can be held personally liable for any illness or injury suffered as a result of poor fire safety management at the workplace? In Victoria and Western Australia directors, executive officers and senior managers can be held liable.

Under all health and safety legislation, you are required to ensure that your workplace has adequate fire prevention and firefighting equipment.

Examples of firefighting equipment include fire extinguishers and fire hose reels, fire blankets and fire helmets. Business-owners must ensure that all firefighting and fire prevention equipment is properly installed, tested and maintained.

It’s important that you replace or repair as quickly as possible any piece of equipment that becomes unserviceable for any reason.

There are a number of ways you can reduce the risk of fire in your workplace, including:

  1. Eliminating the hazard by replacing the use of a flammable material with a safe one.
  2. Substituting the hazard by replacing the use of a very flammable material with a less flammable one.
  3. Isolating the hazard by enclosing work areas containing flammable liquid or gas.
  4. Implementing engineered controls, such as installing fire sprinklers and safety doors, or using mechanical ventilation to remove flammable fumes.
  5. Deploying administrative controls by providing workers with information on the emergency plan and evacuation procedures.
  6. Providing personal protective equipment (PPE) such as facemasks for workers who work with hazardous chemicals. However, PPE should be used as a final option as it provides the least effective option because it relies on individuals in the workplace to correctly follow the instructions and use the equipment to keep them safe.

Emergency management

No matter what industry you operate in, your business must have an emergency management plan in place to deal with all types of emergencies that could affect your workers’ health and safety.

It’s vital that you have an emergency management plan, which is a set of written instructions that sets out what workers and others in the workplace should do in the event of an emergency. The emergency management plans are particularly important for businesses with more than 15 employees, but even if you operate a small business it is still recommended that you have an emergency management plan in place.

Your emergency management plan should be practical and easy to understand. It should include:

  • emergency procedures;
  • procedures for notifying emergency services, including relevant contact details;
  • how medical treatment and assistance will be provided;
  • details of the person who is authorised to coordinate the emergency response;
  • details on how workers will be trained in implementing emergency procedures; and
  • processes for testing emergency procedures − these should be tested every 6 months and documented in the emergency procedure.


Under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (WHS Act), you must report a notifiable incident at your workplace and notify your health and safety regulator.

Similar obligations also exist under the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (Vic) (OHS Act) and the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1984 (WA) (OSH Act).

What constitutes as a notifiable incident varies across jurisdictions. But an incident resulting in someone’s death, or an incident causing a serious injury or illness, or a dangerous incident that is the direct result of a work environment or work-related activity, will always be considered a notifiable incident

Even near misses may be classified as dangerous incidents.

The safety regulator can view an internal investigation report if it decides to investigate an incident. This means that information in the report about the causes of an incident can be used to help prove that you did - or did not - carry out your obligation to provide a safe workplace.



Top stories for Fire, Emergency & Incidents


What to do when a notifiable incident occurs in your workplace

Fire, Emergency & Incidents

You have a legal obligation under all health and safety legislation to report any serious injury or illness, death, or dangerous incident that occurs in your workplace.

By Portner Press on April 23rd, 2019

How legal professional privilege works

Incident Investigations

When a serious workplace incident occurs, businesses like to ensure that any material created during the investigation can be kept confidential. In Petrunic v Q Catering Limited (2019) the Fair Work Commission (FWC) upheld an employers’ claim for privilege over […]

By Michael Selinger on April 16th, 2019

Your questions answered: How often must we inspect fire extinguishers?

Fire, Emergency & Incidents

Q We operate two rock crushing and screening sites for clients in Western Australia and have a number of fire extinguishers on both sites. What is the requirement for inspecting these fire extinguishers? They are mainly dry chemical type and […]

By Portner Press on April 11th, 2019

Your questions answered: What is a lost time injury and how long does it last?

Workers' Compensation

Q: What is a lost time injury and how long does it last?

By Portner Press on April 9th, 2019

Your questions answered: Who is responsible for providing first aid kits in vehicles?

First aid in the workplace

Q In the Health & Safety Handbook chapter on vehicle safety it says that first aid kits are to be supplied in all fleet vehicles. Our fleet vehicles are managed by our corporate department but allocated to the various divisions, business units, etc. […]

By Portner Press on April 5th, 2019

Your questions answered: Do we need to provide defibrillators at work?

First aid in the workplace

Q: I am regularly questioned about defibrillator provision and respond from a risk approach. Do we need to provide defibrillators at work?

By Portner Press on March 29th, 2019

Your questions answered: Where should we locate our fire extinguishers?

First aid in the workplace

  Q Are there requirements for where fire extinguishers are located? For example, do they have to have a clearance zone? Our business is based in NSW.   A The NSW Fire and Rescue website ( provides that if you are considering […]

By Portner Press on March 22nd, 2019

Your questions answered: Do our drivers need to be trained in first aid?

First aid in the workplace

Q: We operate a licensed club that provides courtesy buses to patrons. Do we need to provide our drivers with first aid training?

By Portner Press on March 21st, 2019

Your questions answered: Do workers’ compensation records have to be kept separate from our workers’ personnel files?

Workers' Compensation

Q: Are we required to keep any workers’ compensation records separate from the worker’s personnel files?

By Portner Press on March 15th, 2019

Worker’s compensation payout for wet floor slip upheld

Workers' Compensation

In RSL Care Limited v Wallace (2019), an employer lost an appeal against a previous decision in 2017 where it was ordered to pay its worker $480,784 in damages.

By Portner Press on March 8th, 2019