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Floods highlight need for emergency evacuation plans

With the floods in Queensland still very much front of mind, a new guide has been published to help workplaces prepare and maintain general emergency plans.

The Safe Work Australia guide provides information on:

  • emergency and evacuation procedures
  • contacting emergency services
  • medical treatment and assistance
  • communication between the emergency response coordinator and others
  • information, training and instruction for workers to put in place the emergency procedures.

The guide is for PCBUs and workers preparing and maintaining general emergency plans for fixed workplaces under regulation 43 of the Work Health and Safety Regulations. The types of emergencies to plan for include natural disasters such as floods, storms and rescue operations recently seen in SEQ, as well as fire, explosion, medical emergency, incidents with hazardous chemicals, bomb threats, and armed confrontations.

An emergency plan must encompass emergency and evacuation procedures, notifying emergency service organisations at the earliest opportunity, and medical treatment and communication between coordinator and workers. It must also mention testing of the emergency procedures—including the frequency of testing, and information, training and instruction to relevant workers.

The emergency plan should be based on a practical assessment of hazards associated with the work activity or workplace, and the possible consequences of those hazards creating an emergency. External hazards should also be considered.

Emergency plans don’t have to be complex. They should be tailored to the specific workplace where they apply, addressing the nature of the work and its hazards, the size and location of the workplace (remoteness, proximity to health services), and the number and composition of the workers (employees, contractors, and visitors).

The plan should include practical information such as:

  • emergency contact details for key personnel and for local emergency services
  • a description of the mechanisms for alerting people to an emergency and evacuation procedures with a focus on assisting any hearing, vision or mobility-impaired people
  • a map of the workplace illustrating the location of fire protection equipment, emergency exits, assembly points
  • triggers and processes for advising neighbouring businesses and post-incident follow-up processes (notifying the regulator, organising trauma counselling or medical treatment).

Some higher-risk workplaces may require additional information in their emergency plans:

  • workplaces with confined spaces
  • workplaces that use fall arrest harness systems
  • major hazard facilities and mines
  • workplaces that handle or manage asbestos
  • workplaces that store or handle hazardous chemicals, and
  • workplaces that carry out demolition and refurbishment sites.

Further information

Read more and download a checklist for post incident reviews, first aid and chemical safety.