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Is your business ready for an emergency?

Katrina McKinnon
09 August 2016 4 minute readShare
The outside of the emergency room at a hospital

Emergency situations almost always come out of the blue, making emergency action plans an important preventative measure to stave off disaster. These tips will go a long way to helping your business cope should the worst happen.

Work-related injuries and diseases account for roughly $102 million in Australia each year.

To ascertain the safety, health, and welfare of all workers, the Work Health and Safety Act (WHS Act) provides a framework to address this established issue.

The scope of this legislation also covers all others that may be affected by the work, including customers and visitors.

Section 274 of the WHS Act articulates the Code of Practice on first aid in the workplace. It applies to all aspects of operation, including workplaces that are outdoors, mobile, or remote. Legal requirements calling for strict compliance are itemised under this provision.

Every business has to have a clear-cut plan for any emergency situation. Part of this means ensuring your workplace is WHS compliant.

In prioritising health and safety, here is a checklist to guide you on what you need to know about emergency situations and WHS requirements:

Know your work area

It pays to be on top of things, with an eagle-eye view of the workplace. Inspections must be constant; make sure to leave no corner unnoticed.

Check out the traffic in and out the work area, how people routinely move around and how other variables travel. Pay attention to all the processes involved in your operations – down to the last aspect.

Learn the geography of your workplace’s location. Check for any history of natural disasters and other events that may cause issues in the future.

Make sure that your information is constantly updated, to ease the accountability of your staff.

Your emergency contacts must be in a conspicuous area

It is not enough to simply list the numbers of the local state emergency, police, fire, and ambulance services. The local numbers of each telephone within the workplace should be readily available.

You can also include a list of recovery contacts, such as phone numbers of any other key people or companies like banks, insurance, suppliers and employees.

Assess your evacuation plans

As part of your WHS responsibilities, your business should have an extensive evacuation procedure. This should be aligned with the WHS requirements.

Think about aligning your key evacuation details to the set standards and be sure to include broader emergency settings, listing all possible emergency scenarios.

Keep an emergency kit handy

An emergency kit is not a simple box containing first aid items. Just like your emergency contact numbers, your emergency kits should be easily accessible at all times and in any given situation.

The variety of equipment and tools in your emergency kit will depend on your work orientation. Special items may be needed to immediately address unique emergencies applicable to your workplace.

Aside from the basic first aid equipment, it should also have a mobile phone, plastic bags, spare batteries, a portable radio and a torch. The emergency numbers should either be saved on the phone’s contact numbers or be contained in the kit – secured and waterproof.

Assign a point person and a communication plan

Disasters are alleviated through communication. Planning for emergency or disaster situations is incomplete and substandard if staff are unaware of a direction.

Consider allocating a person/people to be responsible for any emergency situation. Set clear roles and responsibilities and train them appropriately.

All relevant emergency information can be dissipated with ease if emergency staff are in play. These people should know evacuation plans and other related campaigns like the back of their hand.

Practice makes perfect

An emergency action plan will have little to no bearing if it is not thought out and rehearsed on a regular basis. Study every aspect of any emergency situation, from the littlest incident to the biggest scenario.

Your point person/people should be able to respond quickly to these elements. Allocating time to practise your emergency plans makes them a much better investment.

Be updated at all times

Practising your emergency plan presents a golden opportunity to improve and innovate. Response rates will vary in any given situation, so research the possible solutions to any issue. This will ensure that your emergency procedures are efficient.

A move to a new business location or changes in personnel should be accounted for and included in your updated plan.

Identify hazards and threats to your business through an effective and up-to-date emergency management plan. Identify the critical areas of your business and learn how best to protect them.

Be your own critic

Disasters and emergencies can strike without warning. Over time, conditions and situations may change.

As with keeping up to date with the latest methodologies in addressing emergencies, you need to regularly review your emergency plan. Leave no stone unturned; always look for the source of the spark rather than thinking of ways to put out the flame.

First aid facilities and training

Any business or enterprise has a crucial duty, as mandated by the WHS Act. It has to ensure, under reasonable circumstances and due diligence, that workers and other persons are not exposed to health and safety risks arising from its operations.

The size and location of the workplace should be directly proportional to the first aid plan. A provision in the WHS Act lists equipment and medicine that every first aid kit should contain – for everything from cuts and splinters to broken bones and shock. Signage pertaining to these kits should be well displayed and standardised for easy detection.

Regulation 42 of the WHS Act calls for the relevant people within a business to undergo adequate training and certification. For low-risk workplaces, there should be at least one first aid officer for every 50 workers, while this increases to at least one first aid officer for every 25 workers in high-risk workplaces.

Katrina McKinnon is the community outreach manager for Alsco Australia.

Is your business ready for an emergency?
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Katrina McKinnon

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