OHS Code Explanation Guide

Published Date: July 01, 2009
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Part 7 Emergency Preparedness and Response

Section 115 Emergency response plan

An employer must have an emergency response plan for an emergency that may require the rescue or evacuation of workers (Section 8 of the OHS Regulation requires the plan to be in writing and available to workers). The plan establishes what the employer must do until emergency services personnel arrive.

The response plan must address the emergencies identified in the work site hazard assessment required by section 2 of the OHS Code. The plan is to be developed by the employer with input from affected workers. The procedures to be followed and the personnel involved in emergency response must be specified in the plan. All affected workers must be aware of the plan and familiar with the procedures.

A very simple emergency response plan will often be appropriate for offices, small retail shops and small manufacturing settings. There are often few or no hazardous materials or processes in such settings and workers evacuate when an alarm sounds or are ordered to leave by means of a public announcement. Plans that are more complex are required at workplaces containing hazardous materials or at workplaces where workers fight fires, perform rescue and medical tasks, or evacuation after alarms sound is delayed as workers shut down critical equipment. The employer must keep the plan up-to-date, reflecting current circumstances at the work site.

Comments on the use of 911 for emergency services

In some situations an employer may use a “911” service as an acceptable means of providing emergency services at a worksite. Providing first aid and calling “911” may be the complete emergency response plan for this employer. For the most part however, this approach will be limited to employers located in urban areas where the timeliness of the “911” service meets the intent of the requirement.

Using a “911” service replaces some of the employer’s duties under this Part, but not all duties. For example, an employer must still identify potential emergencies, the procedures for dealing with the identified emergencies (which will include calling “911” for particular types of emergencies), fire protection requirements, workers who will supervise evacuation procedures in an emergency, etc.

Regardless of whether or not a “911” service is used, employers must meet the first aid equipment and service requirements of Part 11 of the OHS Code. Using the “911” service does not replace the employer’s obligation to provide the required first aid equipment and services.

Comments on the use of 911 for rescue

In the case of rescues involving workers in confined spaces and workers suspended in the air after a fall, calling 911 alone and awaiting the arrival of rescue services personnel is considered to be an insufficient emergency response. The employer must have some basic level of on-site rescue capability – see section 55 for confined spaces and section 140 for fall protection – in the event that rescue services personnel are delayed or unable to attend the scene.

In some situations, rescue services personnel may not have the equipment or skills to perform a rescue e.g. a worker in a confined space deep below ground level in a horizontal tunnelling operation or a worker suspended 100 metres above ground level following the failure of a swingstage scaffold. In such cases, the employer’s on-site rescue capability must be such that the work site is virtually self-sufficient in returning a rescued worker to the surface or ground level.