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Emergency Planning & Preparedness

Part Two

Emergency Planning, this is the Emergency Services isn’t it?

Unfortunately, this is not the case, the duty firmly sits with the employer. Whilst a call to 999 would arguably be a good choice for the additional level of medical support that Paramedics can offer, the same cannot be said for our Fire-Fighting heroes. Their training is based around exactly that, Fire-fighting, accessing rooftops, towers, cranes, steelwork, and burrowing the depths of a sewer along with the other numerous weird and wonderful high-risk activities carried out every day.

Before making any assumptions, it may be worth a call to any local Fire Service or any specialised local ‘Hazardous Response Teams’ for rescue support. The outcome of which may very well be a visit to your site to assess and understand your requirements, in-line with skills, equipment and responses they could provide. Some clients do have agreements in place via a ‘paid and retained’ service level agreement. More often than not our emergency services are under pressure to satisfy the demand of their day-to-day business before making any commitment to us, so do not be surprised if the call results in a polite and frequent ‘no’.

When developing an effective Emergency Plan, we should consider;

  • The obvious first, an assessment of who, where, what and when?
  • The location (remote nature/terrain/access)?
  • Effective communication methods between workers and emergency services and the co-ordination in the event of such an emergency?
  • Any specific risks posed to the Rescue Team?
  • Suitability and location of the rescue equipment
  • The likely medical condition of the worker(s) ‘suspended in a harness’ suffering the on-set of Suspension Syn-cope or one that is collapsed unconscious?
  • Level of medical provision and supplies available to you on-site and off-site?
  • Off-site response times for medical professionals and likely arrival time
  • The ‘right people’. Too many individuals are sent on WaH and CS training courses without thought, consideration and understanding of one’s abilities both physically and mentally to carry out any such rescue. Human behaviour, when faced with a pressurised and dangerous situation can focus some, whilst all rationale goes ‘out of the window’, followed by panic in others.

For those in the Scaffolding industry, further guidance is available under SG19:17 of National Access & Scaffolding Confederation ‘Formulating a Rescue Plan’.

Those operating a Motorised Elevated Work Platform (MEWP) then further help and guidance can be found in and IPAF Guidance on emergency rescue.

For all other work at height related activities then the above information should be considered towards an ‘effective plan’ to satisfy the WaH Regulations of 2005 (as amended).

 “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!”― Benjamin Franklin

As we are planning for success here and as a matter of course, the suitable and sufficient risk assessment is prepared initially. As the works will have significant residual risks a Safe System or Work (SSoW), or Safe Operating, Safe Maintenance Procedures will be followed. A Permit to Work System may also be considered given the ‘high-risk nature’ of the work being undertaken.

So the SSoW captures all of the residual risks and is a fundamental part of the Emergency Plan. The other KEY elements to the plan should be information (appropriate medium), instruction (show, tell, discuss), training (on or off site but not ‘on the job’), more training and of course all done with the right people and right equipment.

After all the planning, investment in people and equipment, what happens next? well hopefully nothing, by this I mean more “without incident”.

What is the lesson learnt here? We simply have a plan: a theoretical plan.

Here are some of the typical examples of what can be expected for failing to plan effectively;

An effective emergency plan assures all concerned, that’s everyone in the business.

Most companies usually empty their buildings once or twice a year with the business assets stood on the car park attending a Fire Drill. Smart businesses learn and strengthen their policy and/or procedure by doing this frequently, but how many Emergency Drill’s does your business plan for each year?

More often than not the answer is ‘we don’t’ which is quite remarkable given the planning, investment, probable outcome to those and their families, the repercussions left for those lucky enough to be alive and ‘we don’t know if the plan actually works!’

The initial capital investment is the first part of the overall strategic plan that requires maintenance. In fact, maintenance is exactly what it is ‘maintaining a finely tuned rescue machine’.

For those who made the huge step forward to legal compliance and investment, some worthy questions should now be asked;

  • Is refresher training/practice drills being planned and carried out to avoid skill fade and build confidence of those required to deliver come the hour?
  • Is the plan an effective one that covers all elements and ‘fit for purpose for OUR business’?
  • Has the plan been tested?
  • Was the plan developed internally and supported externally and independently through ‘another pair of eyes’?

If the answer is NO to any of the above or ‘we do not have an emergency plan’ then a call to us here at Safety for Design for an initial chat could be a good investment of time.

We can work with our clients in any capacity in advisory, consultative, project or ad-hoc basis to ensure legal compliance. With Deryl’s background in instructing, advising and working with clients in all aspects that involves Work at Height and Confined Spaces we can provide sound independent and practical advice, solutions, audits, emergency drills and document reviews to our customers ensuring they are legally compliant and the peace of mind the ‘investments’ were just that.

Deryl Smith

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