The safety of people should always be the top priority during an emergency. As previously discussed in Guide: Create a Business Emergency Preparedness Plan, an emergency management plan is essential to help businesses respond quickly and effectively to emergencies, ensuring the safety of employees, customers and operations.
However, what about the safety of external personnel that visit your business?
In addition to employees, it is imperative that any emergency management plan also considers the safety of organisation guests, clients and contractors. After all, you are more familiar with your place of business, and you have a duty of care to ensure the safety of all visitors.
So, what steps can you take to manage the safety of external personnel during an emergency?
1 – Conduct regular training and drills
Training employees on emergency procedures (that include managing the safety of external personnel during an emergency) and conducting drills will help ensure that staff are familiar with evacuation routes and safety protocols, can identify areas for improvement, have the confidence to respond effectively, and know how to manage visitors in an emergency.
All staff should be trained in emergency response procedures and be familiar with the layout of the building. They should also have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities.
It is essential that this training also includes situations where there may be after-hours visitors. Any staff in charge outside of regular business hours when external personnel (such as contractors for event venue hire, sporting days, open days, etc.) needs to be adequately equipped to manage after-hours emergencies.
2 – Regularly review and update your Emergency Management Plan
Reviewing and updating your Emergency Management Plan annually is best practice. Regular reviews and updates are required to reflect any changes in the workplace, personnel, or regulations. Doing so will ensure that the plan remains relevant and effective.
It is also important to encourage employees to report safety concerns or potential hazards promptly, and establish a system to review and address these concerns to prevent accidents where possible, enhance safety and contribute to continuous improvement.
3 – Display Emergency Processes
Displaying a one-page poster highlighting key areas of the building, emergency processes, contact numbers for escalation, and emergency contact numbers will help to ensure staff and external personnel have the information easily accessible in the case of an emergency.
This poster should be displayed in areas easily viewable by all personnel, including but not limited to the front office, break rooms, loading docks and car parks.
4 – Hold Emergency Management Inductions
Depending on the purpose of external personnel visiting, emergency management inductions may be necessary to inform them of the processes to follow during an emergency, including:
– Emergency evacuation procedures and exit point(s)
– Lockdown processes
– Location and access to evacuation diagrams highlighting evacuation routes, designated assembly point(s) and emergency equipment
– Who the designated wardens are
– The process for accounting for personnel in an emergency, if relevant
– Providing access to a list of emergency contacts, including Emergency Control Organisation (i.e. the warden team) and first aid officers
– Location of relevant registers, if applicable, including asbestos and hazardous materials
-The location of and safe use of appropriate emergency equipment
– Who to contact within the organisation if they observe an incident
5 – Implement a mandatory Sign-in/Sign-out Register
This ensures the business has a record of who is currently on site and how to contact them in an emergency. The register needs to include the name of the visitor, the company they represent, their contact details, the person they are visiting, the purpose of their visit, and the location of the work being undertaken (if relevant).
Including this sign-in/sign-out process in the key Emergency Processes is also recommended.
6 – Ensure adequate exit signs are installed and visible
The Australian Building Codes Board states that an exit sign must be “clearly visible at all times when the building is occupied by any person having the right of legal entry to the building.”
Every exit sign must be clear to persons approaching the exit and must comply with AS/NZS 2293.1.
7 – Undertake Risk Assessments
Undertaking risk assessments that include external personnel will help to determine what measures should be put in place to eliminate or control any identified risks and prioritise them based on the likelihood and consequence the risk could have on them and the business.
8 – Incorporating external parties in communications plans
Effective communications plans ensure that all personnel are promptly informed of an emergency.
The communications plan may utilise multiple channels, including EWIS, PA systems, text messages, email, social media, and in some cases, phone calls to escalate the process and notify relevant persons.
Communications should include all personnel, including staff, clients, contractors and other visitors on site to ensure they are aware of the emergency.
Prioritising personnel safety, including external visitors, requires a proactive approach with regular training, effective communication, and continuous learning for improvement to ensure safety during an emergency.