In our previous post we explained how most safety professionals consider quarterly emergency drills a reasonable frequency (on average, every site is different of course!)
Australian Standard AS 3745—2010 ‘Planning for emergencies in facilities’ states that:
The size and configuration of the facility, together with the type of occupancy, will determine the type and time interval between emergency response exercises. These may be conducted either as partial emergency response exercises or a total emergency response exercise covering the entire facility.
It also states that:
The emergency response procedures should be tested within the first 12 months. The first emergency response exercise should be an evacuation exercise. (NOTE: if the facility is large or a multi storey building, a partial evacuation may be undertaken to test the emergency response procedures and the ECO in the first instance.
I believe this requirement can be extended to a more complete process to determine the type and frequency of emergency exercises needed in the workplace:
- Check any statutory and regulatory requirements. These may determine the minimum frequency and type of drills you need to do.
- Identify hazards that can cause emergencies, both internal (fire, security threats, chemical leak, etc.) and external (severe weather, bushfire, adjacent facilities etc.)
- Do a risk assessment for each hazard considering the highest reasonable consequence and its likelihood. Decide for which top-risk emergencies you need to exercise the response.
- For each emergency, develop a response procedure and set one or more performance targets (e.g. call an ambulance within 1min, prevent chemical spill from entering stormwater system, evacuate, assemble and conduct roll call within 10min.) Consider internal and external characteristics when setting the adequate target: site size, layout, type of occupancy, activities, distance to nearest hospital, availability of emergency services etc.
- Determine what occupants (employees, contractors, student and residents) need to take part in each emergency
- Conduct the emergency exercise, record the performance and compare it with the target set. Establish a provisional frequency (depending on how well it went) and readjust as necessary until you feel confident the target will be met in case of a real emergency. Like everything, the more we do it the better we get at it. You also want to record who takes part in the exercises to make sure they drill at the adequate frequency!
Adding to this, you need to manage change (e.g. new personnel on site, construction works on a neighbouring site affecting the assembly area, new students arriving at a college accommodation etc.). Review process above, inform personnel of any changes to an emergency response procedure and conduct the drill again shortly after the changes have occurred to minimise the risk.
In many instances, the more information your site occupants have, the better they will respond to an evacuation exercise. Emergency app anyone? Give EVA Emergency app a try, and improve the safety of your workforce, it’s free!