Emergency Response Procedure
An emergency response procedure constitutes a series of steps to be executed in the event of an emergency. The primary objectives of such a procedure are to ensure the security of human life (workers), minimise property damage, and safeguard the workplace environment.
This procedure should be tailor-made to address the distinctive characteristics of potential emergency scenarios, and it is imperative that it undergoes periodic review and updates in alignment with other facets of the health and safety management system. Additionally, this protocol should be meticulously documented and universally familiar to all employees within the organization.
Emergency Preparedness Procedure
Emergency preparedness procedures encompass pre-planned measures and responses developed to effectively address identified emergency situations. These protocols aim to safeguard individuals, and assets, and mitigate the environmental impact of an emergency event. Emergencies can encompass a wide spectrum, ranging from natural calamities to minor incidents, accidents and security threats. Consequently, these preparedness procedures need to be customised to align with the specific nature of the anticipated emergency.
The incorporation of an emergency preparedness and response process is an inherent element within any comprehensive health and safety management system. It stands as a critical component and likely garnered paramount consideration during the initial design phase of your Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) management system.
The impetus for this emphasis may largely arise from the stringent legal obligations imposed by many nations, necessitating the establishment of such plans for workplaces across industries. These legal stipulations underscore the imperative nature of having robust emergency preparedness and response procedures in effect.
ISO 45001 Clause 8.2 Emergency Preparedness and Response
The organisation is mandated to institute, execute, and sustain a set of procedures essential for both preparing for and responding to potential emergency situations, as discerned through the hazard identification process (220.127.116.11).
These procedures encompass the following:
- Devising a structured response strategy for emergency situations, encompassing provisions for initial first aid.
- Provision of comprehensive training to equip personnel with the requisite skills for executing the planned response.
- Regularly subjecting the planned response capabilities to testing and simulated exercises.
- Performance evaluation, with a particular focus on post-testing reviews and revisions of the response plan, especially following actual emergency occurrences.
- Ensuring effective communication of duties and responsibilities to all personnel. f) Disseminating pertinent information to contractors, visitors, emergency response services, government authorities, and, when applicable, the local community.
- Conscientiously considering the needs and competencies of all pertinent stakeholders and involving them, where appropriate, in the development of the response strategy.
The organisation is further obligated to uphold and retain comprehensive documented information pertaining to these processes and the response plans for potential emergencies.
Steps of an ISO 45001 Emergency Response Procedure
The ISO 45001 Emergency Response and Preparedness Procedure ensures that organisations are well-prepared to handle various emergency scenarios, protect lives, property, and the environment, and facilitate a coordinated and effective response to unforeseen situations.
Here is an overview of the key components of the ISO 45001 Emergency Response and Preparedness Procedure that on accurate implementation can help organisations act promptly during an emergency:
This initial step involves establishing well-thought-out responses to various emergency scenarios, ensuring readiness when dealing with potential crises. This includes:
- Identification of responsible personnel for specific tasks.
- Assessment of the capabilities and performance of relevant interested parties.
- Allocation of necessary resources.
- Establishment of evacuation routes.
- Communication of emergency information to contractors, visitors, and on-site individuals.
This critical phase entails promptly informing the appropriate personnel, including emergency responders, about the emergency at hand. Notifications can be conveyed through various means, such as telephone calls, fire alarm systems, public address systems, radio broadcasts, and more. During notifications, the caller should provide the following details:
- Name of the caller.
- Nature of the emergency.
- Location of the emergency.
- Support required from the response team.
- The number of individuals involved.
Following notification, the relevant individual must assess the situation to determine the most appropriate course of action. This assessment takes into account the emergency’s severity and the potential for further escalation.
This phase mandates the organised evacuation of all individuals from the building or work area to a pre-established assembly point to ensure their safety and well-being.
During this step, efforts are focused on controlling the work environment to prevent further damage or deterioration.
6) Post-Emergency Activities:
After an emergency, securing the incident scene is crucial until a thorough examination can occur, and all relevant evidence is collected. This includes documented information. Gathering comprehensive information and evidence is vital for investigations aimed at determining the root causes of the emergency.
The ISO 45001 Emergency Preparedness and Response procedure should be regularly reviewed and updated to align with evolving risks and safety measures.
Complacency Trap Found in Emergency Preparedness and Response Process
The possible instances of complacency trap found in the emergency preparedness and response process of organisations include:
1) The existing emergency preparedness and response procedure may have been created years ago or adapted with minimal modifications, possibly sourced from the internet. However, it is worth considering whether this approach aligns with the dynamic and ever-changing nature of your organisation’s identified risks.
2) The current plan and procedure appear to encompass only the most frequent emergency scenarios, such as fires, earthquakes, floods, and bomb threats. Yet, it’s essential to address various potential emergencies, including occupational health incidents like medical emergencies, as well as other pertinent situations like utility failures, elevator entrapments, suspicious packages, or unauthorised intruders.
3) Moreover, there seems to be an issue with the regular servicing of emergency equipment, with instances of equipment being overlooked, particularly in remote areas.
4) In some cases, evacuation plans exclusively feature a single route, with no practice drills for alternative pathways. Additionally, the common practice of announcing drills and conducting them during non-disruptive periods doesn’t accurately replicate real emergency situations, which are unpredictable and don’t adhere to schedules.
5) Furthermore, it’s noted that drills often take place during daytime shifts, neglecting evidence of exercises during other working hours. Integrating external emergency service providers into these drills appears to be a rare occurrence.
To conclude, an opportunity for continual improvement of a business is overlooked, as the ‘lessons learned’ from exercises are not documented or acted upon. This omission has the potential to address complacency, and the insights gained should influence changes in the risk register following practice drills.
Opportunities for Continuous Improvement
Conducting practice drills regularly to maintain employee preparedness is a highly advisable practice. Whenever feasible, involve external resources such as fire and police departments in these drills. Following each exercise, it’s crucial to assess the plan’s strengths and weaknesses, actively working on enhancements.
Consider temporarily closing off standard escape routes used during drills, especially the main entrance and exit. This encourages individuals to familiarise themselves with alternative exit pathways. The ensuing controlled chaos might reveal unforeseen challenges.
Ensure awareness of individuals within the building who may have mobility issues that impede stair usage in an emergency. Likewise, be mindful of occupants with diverse challenges, such as underlying heart conditions that heighten the risk of using stairs during a stressful evacuation. Special attention should be given to those who are hearing or visually impaired, as well as pregnant employees.
In most cases, it is vital that building occupants, including designated fire wardens, are not forewarned of a drill. Exceptions to this rule may apply when pre-planning is necessary to prevent unnecessary injuries or when external resources are engaged in the evacuation exercise. Unannounced drills provide a more accurate gauge of evacuation readiness.
Furthermore, an all-encompassing emergency preparedness and response process should account for “health” emergencies. Consider the health-related risks specific to your organisation, identify critical emergencies like heart attacks, epileptic fits, or employees fainting, and ensure that these scenarios are practised and well-documented. Hence addressing the ISO 45001 implementing challenges plays a key role in overcoming emergencies and for being prepared for any sudden incident.