No one can predict when an emergency is going to take place. Emergency situations may arise due to a fire, explosion, chemical spill, medical emergency, natural disaster, bomb threat or violence. Your plans will help staff and visitors in any type of emergency.

Higher-risk workplaces may require additional information in their emergency plans. Examples of these workplaces include:

  • 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.

For more information about these requirements refer to the relevant chapters in the WHS Regulations and the related Codes of Practice.

Emergency plans

It is a legal requirement that all workplaces have an emergency plan which is a written set of instructions that outlines what workers and others at the workplace should do in an emergency.

No one can predict when an emergency is going to take place. Emergency situations may arise due to a fire, explosion, chemical spill, medical emergency, natural disaster, bomb threat or violence. Your plans will help staff and visitors in any type of emergency.

Display emergency procedures in a prominent place and make sure your workers know how to implement them.

Your emergency plan must be an effective response to any emergency. It must include:

  • emergency procedures, including an effective response to an emergency
  • evacuation procedures
  • notifying emergency service organisations at the earliest opportunity
  • medical treatment and assistance
  • effective communication between the person authorised to coordinate the emergency response and all people at the workplace
  • testing of the emergency procedures — including the frequency of testing
  • information, training and instruction to relevant workers in relation to implementing the emergency procedures.

What types of emergencies should be covered?

The types of emergencies to plan for may include fire, explosion, medical emergency, rescues, incidents with hazardous chemicals, bomb threats, armed confrontations and natural disasters.

The emergency plan should be based on a practical assessment of hazards associated with the work activity or workplace, and the possible consequences of an emergency occurring as a result of those hazards. External hazards should also be considered in preparing an emergency plan, for example a chemical storage facility across the road.

In developing the plan, consideration should be given to the application of all relevant laws, including public health laws (for example, workplaces that are also public places) and state disaster plans.

Emergency plans do not necessarily have to be lengthy or complex. They should be easy to understand and tailored to the specific workplace where they apply.

In preparing an emergency plan, all relevant matters need to be considered including:

  • the nature of the work being carried out at the workplace
  • the nature of the hazards at the workplace
  • whether you share a workplace with other businesses
  • the size and location of the workplace, for example, remoteness, proximity to health services, and
  • the number and composition of the workers, for example, employees, contractors, and other persons at the workplace such as visitors.

Special consideration may need to be provided for workers who travel for work, work alone or in remote locations. The checklist on page 4 of Safe Work Australia's Emergency plans fact sheet provides examples of relevant factors to consider.

Employer responsibilities

You must ensure an emergency plan is prepared for the workplace, including for workers who may work at multiple workplaces.

For emergency plans to remain current and effective they must be reviewed and revised (if necessary) on a regular basis. For example:

  • when there are changes to the workplace such as re-location or refurbishments
  • when there are changes in the number or composition of staff including an increase in the use of temporary contractors
  • when new activities have been introduced, and
  • after the plan has been tested.

Ensure that workers are adequately trained in emergency procedures. Arrangements for information, training and instruction of workers must be set out in the emergency plan itself.

Training may include practising evacuations, identifying assembly points, location of emergency equipment, first aid arrangements and how to safely shut down machinery.

In determining training requirements, the following should be considered:

  • inclusion of emergency procedure training in induction courses for new workers
  • provision of refresher training for existing workers
  • provision of training for short-term contractors or visitors at the workplace (this may not need to be as extensive as may be required for workers), and
  • provision of specific training for individuals who have a formal role in an emergency for example fire wardens, floor wardens, first aid officers.

Refer to the First Aid and Emergency Safety Scan to look at your emergency safety systems and practices.

Worker responsibilities

As a worker you need to:

  • contribute to a safe workplace by taking responsibility for your safety and the safety of people you work with
  • understand and follow the safety plan
  • suggest improvements to the safety plan
  • participate and give feedback on safety plan tests
  • use Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) where required for the task such as Hi-Viz clothing, safety glasses and gloves.

Further information