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 operations. These could include responses to fires and bushfires, floods, cyclones, explosives, sabotage, acts of terrorism, and many more, depending on the industry in which your business operates.

Emergency management plans are particularly important for businesses with more than 15 employees. However, even if you operate a business with fewer than 15 employees, it is still recommended that you have an emergency management plan in place.

An emergency management plan is a set of written instructions that explains what workers and visitors to the workplace should do in the event of an emergency.

An emergency management plan should contain:

  • 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.

An evacuation procedure should form part of your emergency procedure.

When developing your emergency management plan, take into account the size and location of your workplace, including its remoteness from health services, and the number and composition of your workers and other visitors to your workplace.

Some workplaces, such as those with confined spaces or hazardous chemicals, have higher risks than others. Your emergency management plan will need to take into account any additional risks associated with your workplace.

Emergency management plans should be developed by an emergency planning committee, which is usually comprised of health and safety representatives and senior managers.

Emergency Planning Committee

An emergency planning committee (EPC) is the key group of people who determines the emergency risks in the workplace, and coordinates the development and monitoring of the emergency management plan.

An EPC is responsible for:

  • strategic planning to respond to an emergency;
  • creating emergency management policies;
  • reviewing legislative requirements, and ensuring these requirements are met;
  • monitoring and evaluating emergency management in the workplace;
  • allocating resources to train staff on emergency management; and
  • reporting on how emergencies have been dealt with by the business.

If you are not the owner of the premises where your business usually operates, you will need to consult and coordinate with the property owner to ensure requirements for emergency equipment and facilities are met.

How to respond to an emergency

Ensure you have the appropriate procedures in place to deal with the types of emergencies your workers could be exposed to (provided there is a reasonably foreseeable risk of such an emergency occurring at your workplace).

A reasonably foreseeable risk is a risk that a reasonable person in the same situation could anticipate in the circumstances.

HOW TO DEVELOP AND IMPLEMENT AN EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT PLAN

To develop and implement an emergency management plan, you should start by identifying and assessing workplace hazards.

You should

  • consult with your workers as part of this process;
  • consider the risks posed by external hazards;
  • consult with local authorities to ensure your emergency management plan is consistent; and
  • determine what controls you will put in place to deal with any emergencies you identified in your assessment of internal and external hazards.

Once all this has been done, you should document your emergency management plan and include the date it was created and when it is due for review. It should be prominently displayed and accessible to staff, e.g. on your company intranet.

It’s important to train everyone in the emergency management plan to ensure that your workers understand the processes to be followed in the event of an emergency.

Finally, review your emergency management plan regularly to account for any changes in your business’s layout, workforce size, scope of activities and new equipment.

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