Your questions answered: Do we need an evacuation map in every room of the workplace?

By Portner Press on October 11th, 2019
  1. Fire, Emergency & Incidents
  2. Emergency Management

Q
We have a full emergency plan in our workplace that we test and review regularly. We are currently reviewing our evacuation plans and the question arose of how many maps we require? Our workplace is a large school with maps currently displayed in each classroom. Is this necessary?
A
There is no prescriptive legislative requirement for evacuation maps to be located in each room within a building under the work health and safety laws. However, we would caution against reducing the number of maps that you currently provide unless you can demonstrate that it is not reasonably practicable to maintain them.

Section 43 of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2017 (Regulation) sets out the duty of a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU) to prepare, maintain and implement an emergency plan.

In NSW, there is an approved code of practice, Managing the Work Environment and Facilities. The code states:

Evacuation procedures should be displayed in a prominent place, for example, on a noticeboard. Workers must be instructed and trained in the procedures.

The code of practice does not replace the requirements under the work health and safety legislation, including under the Regulations, and is not mandatory. However, in any prosecution for breaches of the Act or Regulations, the Court may have regard to an approved code of practice as evidence of what is known about a particular risk, risk assessment or risk control, and in determining what is reasonably practicable in the circumstances to which the code relates.

Separately, Australian Standard AS 3745 – 2010 Planning for emergencies in facilities, is widely accepted as guidance material on implementing emergency procedures. While the Australian Standard provides guidance, it is not a legislative requirement. You could also discuss this issue with the local fire brigade for their view and/or discuss with a Schools Association as to the industry practice before removing the maps.

In all cases, a PCBU has an obligation to have emergency response procedures, including an effective response, evacuation procedures and effective communication to coordinate the emergency plan and all persons at the workplace. The emergency plan must also provide for information, training and instruction to relevant workers in implementing the procedure. When carrying out these duties, the PCBU must have regard to the nature of the work, the hazards at the workplace, the size and location of the workplace, and the number and composition of workers and other persons at the workplace.

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