Accidents, incidents, first aid and emergency preparedness

Accidents happen unexpectedly, without design or by chance. An incident is an occurrence or event usually caused by a combination of factors. Some causes of incidents may include:

  • poor choice of risk controls;
  • a system of work that involved unnecessary risks (either a system of work designed by management or a ‘shortcut’ that management knew about but failed to prevent);
  • insufficient training for the job;
  • insufficient supervision;
  • poor maintenance of equipment;
  • unguarded machinery;
  • unsafe use of plant, materials and substances;
  • unrealistic production schedules;
  • safe work procedures not followed;
  • poor housekeeping;
  • operator error caused by fatigue, boredom, complacency; and
  • failure to act after previous incidents.

An incident can result in no damage (near hit) through to a serious injury, causing a severe disability, death or major property damage.

Incidents, accidents and emergency planning

A person conducting a business or undertaking must develop and document a plan for the incidents, accidents and emergencies that may occur in the workplace. Workers must be informed of and trained in procedures. The person in control of a business or undertaking must also review plans to ensure they are effective and up to date.

An emergency plan is a written set of instructions that provides for :

  • emergency procedures, including an effective response;
  • evacuation procedures;
  • notification of emergency services;
  • medical treatment and assistance;
  • communication procedures;
  • testing of procedures; and
  • information, training and instruction to relevant workers in relation to implementing the emergency procedures.

It is recommended that any emergency planning committee be established and consist of trained persons who are located on each of the building's levels or located consistent with the layout of the building and involve as many tenants as appropriate. An emergency planning committee should include health and safety representatives and where appropriate consist of a:

  • Chief Warden;
  • Deputy Chief Warden;
  • Floor Wardens;
  • Wardens;
  • Communication Officer; and
  • First Aid Officers.

What types of emergencies should be covered?

Types of emergencies to plan for may include:

  • fire;
  • explosion;
  • medical emergency;
  • rescues;
  • incidents with hazardous chemicals;
  • bomb threats; and
  • natural disasters.

An 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. 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;
  • 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.

Emergency plans, or a summary of key elements of emergency plans, should be readily accessible by workers or on display in the workplace, for example on a notice board.

First aid

The person in control of a business or undertaking must provide first aid facilities and a sufficient number of trained first aid officers as determined necessary by a risk assessment of the first aid needs of the workplace.

The first aid facilities may be a room set aside specifically for first aid treatment, a number of stations within the workplace or a first aid box on a wall. The person in control of a business or undertaking must inform workers of first aid procedures, first aid officers and the location of first aid facilities. A list of trained first aid officers and a map clearly showing the location of first aid facilities must also be posted prominently in the workplace.

The First Aid in the Workplace Code of Practice sets out a range of measures which ensure work safety in the workplace.

Fire equipment

The person in control of a business or undertaking must inform workers of the location of fire fighting equipment and explain its usage. Maps clearly marking fire fighting equipment must be displayed prominently in the workplace. The person in control of a business or undertaking must also train workers in the procedures in the event of a fire.

It is important that the owner of the building or the person in control of the workplace ensure that:

  • fire equipment is maintained regularly (check dates on service tags);
  • fire extinguishers are in place and are properly mounted on brackets;
  • detection and sprinkler systems are maintained regularly and that maintenance log books are kept up to date; and,
  • items are not placed near firefighting equipment or stacked to ceiling level as this will interfere with sprinkler and detection systems.

The ACT Fire Brigade should be consulted regarding the fire safety systems required for specific buildings. Where specified by the Building Code of Australia, building owners must install and maintain at a minimum, hose reels and the appropriate extinguishers near switchboards, main electrical cupboards and in areas where batteries are stored as well as near emergency services switchboards.

The building owner should ensure that they have access to all the standards and guidelines that are deemed relevant and necessary for the type of building and for the types of activities being undertaken on the premises. These documents should be made available to tenants or employees on request.

It is the responsibility of the building owner to ensure that the fire safety systems installed and used in the workplace conform to the relevant standards that these systems are regularly maintained in good working order and that records of maintenance and testing activities are kept.

Building owners or persons in control of the workplace should make available to the occupiers of the premises information regarding the level and type of fire safety systems installed and information on the maintenance being undertaken on these systems.

It is important that building owners, responsible tenants and other occupiers have a clear means of communication. It is important that tenants and employees be advised when any maintenance, construction work or changes to building systems are undertaken particularly when these activities involve fire safety systems or when changes are required to established fire safety procedures.

Emergency evacuation

A person in control of a business or undertaking must maintain an accurate and up to date emergency evacuation plan. The plan, including emergency exits, must be displayed prominently in the workplace. Workers must be trained in evacuation procedures including:

  • the identity of the Wardens;
  • the alarm system and emergency warning and intercommunication system used in the building;
  • actions that building occupants are required to take in response to alarms;
  • the evacuation route(s) to be taken;
  • assembly area or designated alternative areas which provide a safe refuge internally or externally;
  • how the end of the evacuation will be signaled; and
  • what is required at the completion of the evacuation.

For more information about emergency plans visit the Safe Work Australia website.

Evacuation exercises should be conducted on a regular basis, there are a number of factors that influence the frequency of practising for emergency situations and the ACT Fire Brigade should be contacted for details. As a basic rule however, these factors would include the size and configuration of the premises and the type of business and/or industry activity being undertaken. The period between full evacuations can vary between one and three years. The period between partial evacuations can vary between quarterly and yearly.

On this page