Unpreparedness in case of an emergency can subject a construction company to lawsuits, insurance increases, and suspended licenses. Emergency preparedness, including site-specific emergency action plans, helps to minimise onsite incidents and resulting economic losses.
Every construction project is different in size, complexity, access and location, meaning there is a significant amount of planning necessary for emergencies. For this reason, it’s recommended that every contractor has a member of staff on site to assist in the development of the emergency response plan.
How is an Emergency Plan Developed?
Emergency planning should begin before the commencement of the project. You can use an emergency plan template and modify it according to the site specifics, which is especially effective when the contractor specialises in similar projects.
Emergency Plan Development Should Include:
- Hazard identification and assessment
- Emergency resources
- Communication systems
- Administration of the plan
- Emergency response procedure
- Communication of the procedure
- Debriefing and post-traumatic stress procedure
Hazard Identification and Assessment
This involves a thorough review that includes but is not limited to;
- Materials handling, transportation, equipment or product installation, hoisting, temporary structures, materials storage and commissioning activities
- Environmental concerns
- Consultation with the client concerning potential hazards
- Proximity to traffic and public ways
- Tools such as material safety data sheets to determine potential hazards from on-site materials
Construction sites are dynamic, which is why hazard assessment should be an ongoing process. Once hazards are identified, you should then assess the potential risk each hazard poses. For each hazard ask;
- What can go wrong?
- What are the consequences?
People, equipment, facilities and materials are critical in an emergency response. You should identify which resources are available and have contingency plans to cater for deficiencies.
Identify other on site resources which include;
- Fire extinguishers
- First aid kits should be clearly marked
- Spills containment equipment
- On-site medical staff and staff trained in first aid should be included in the plan
- External resources such as ambulances may have to be sourced and kept on site
Communication systems are crucial to an effective emergency response, and should relay accurate information quickly. To ensure this, reliable communications equipment must be in placed strategically, procedures developed and personnel trained. A backup system is necessary in case components like telephone lines are rendered useless by the emergency.
The type and location of communication systems should be posted on the project. This includes;
- Location of telephones
- List of personnel with mobile phones or two-way radios
- Emergency phone numbers, site address, and location should be posted beside site phones
- Locations of emergency phones should be clearly marked on large sites
Administration of the Plan
Administering the emergency plan is critical for effectiveness. The person charged with this is usually the person in charge of the emergency response operation. They should ensure;
- Everyone clearly understands their roles and responsibilities in the emergency response plan (you may use an organisational chart for this)
- Emergency resources are adequate as the project progresses
Emergency Response Procedure
An emergency can be reported by a worker on site, an outside agency or the public. The following immediate actions are recommended;
- Stay calm
- Assess the situation
- Take command
- Provide protection
- Aid and manage
- Maintain contacts
- Guide emergency services
Communication of the Procedure
The emergency response procedure should be reviewed continually to meet changing conditions. For effectiveness, an emergency response procedure should be communicated to all personnel. The procedure should be reviewed with the owner or client, subcontractors, new workers, suppliers, and any health and safety committee. This procedure should be posted in a conspicuous location.
Debriefing and Post-Traumatic Stress Procedure
Debriefing is crucial to review how well the plan worked and to correct any deficiencies identified. This is critical to the success of future emergency planning.
Emergency Plan Template
Emergency preparedness cannot be compromised. An emergency plan template is an easy and standardised way of recording an emergency plan. To download your free emergency plan and evacuation template, click below.