Better safe than sorry

Better safe than sorry

In the event of an emergency such as a fire, all companies should have a comprehensive evacuation plan in place. Members who are trained in first aid should be part of the emergency team, and should have access to evacuation and emergency equipment. SHEQ MANAGEMENT explores the best ways to be prepared.

The City of Cape Town’s Fire and Rescue Service offers the following guidelines for emergency evacuation plans. Every emergency evacuation plan must contain at least the following information:

• A list of all relevant emergency telephone numbers;

• The physical address of the premises;

• A description of the activities on the premises;

• The number of persons present on the premises at any time;

• An indication of any control room on the premises;

• An indication of any alarm system on the premises;

• The particulars and contact details of every responsible person in the event of an emergency;

• An area study addressing the following: a history of emergency incidents on the premises; any important and relevant features or landmarks regarding the premises; and any information regarding adjacent premises that may be relevant to evacuation in an emergency;

• Any socio-economic or other threats and their potential impact on the premises;

• Particulars and details regarding the position of equipment in the control room, fire fighting and first aid equipment on the premises, and any other equipment which may be relevant in an emergency;

• Particulars and details regarding the identity of members of the emergency team, including its management, the continuity officers, the fire teams and the first aid teams;

• Duties of emergency team members;

• Action plans and emergency procedures;

• Building plans and maps;

• Finally, the plan must include an updated register of the emergency evacuation plan, an updated drill register for the emergency evacuation plan and a bomb threat questionnaire.

It also recommends that an emergency evacuation plan must be reviewed and updated by the owner (or occupier) of the premises concerned at least once a year and whenever a member of the management of the emergency team ceases to work at the premises.

Furthermore, whenever an emergency evacuation plan is reviewed and updated, the owner (or occupier) of the premises must ensure that all old emergency plans for the premises (including those in the possession of the management of the emergency team) are collected and destroyed, in order to eliminate any confusion regarding the validity and accuracy of the evacuation plan.

Emergency evacuation drills should be planned at least twice a year and should involve the participation of everyone who works in the building. The owner (or person in charge) of the building should give everyone who is to be involved in the drill at least 21 days’ notice.

Ideally, every person who works on the premises should be aware of its emergency evacuation plan and should be trained in first aid or firefighting, emergency aid, emergency evacuation procedures and emergency management techniques.

For companies who don’t know where to start, there are experts in the field that can help, such as Action Training Academy, which specialises in emergency preparedness training. This includes emergency evacuation procedures, firefighting and first aid training.

The occupational health and safety team consists of an evacuation leader, fire warden, first aider and health and safety representative – who all play different roles in dealing with an emergency. It is therefore important to have a number of staff trained in the various roles and responsibilities.

The accredited, one-day emergency evacuation procedures course provides the learner with the necessary skills to successfully manage the emergency evacuation of staff, or a building, should an emergency arise. Action Training can assist with the real-life planning and conducting of drills. It also provides detailed plans of the layout of the premises; where all the emergency equipment is located and where the assembly areas are.

When it comes to fires, proper training and education are essential to enable people to make the right decisions. Approximately 600 people die and over 4 000 are injured annually in South Africa as a result of fire, and these blazes cause more than R500-million damage to property every year. In order to ensure that there are more on-site fire safety experts available to reduce this statistic, Action Training provides courses ranging from a
four-hour “general fire awareness” course, to a 16-hour “advanced firefighting” course.

Legislation requires that one in 50 people per company, or two per building, should be trained in basic firefighting. Action Training’s firefighting training courses are aimed at teaching basic firefighting skills in order to minimise loss of life and property, by extinguishing fires in their early stages. The best method of stopping a fire is to prevent it spreading. The actions taken to control a fire during the first few minutes will determine whether it can be contained or not. Firefighting is a skill every workplace needs. Fires spread fast.

Similarly, first aid is an invaluable skill in the workplace. Action Training Academy’s courses provide theoretical information and the practical skills required to manage an emergency. A variety of first aid course are available from First Aid Level 1 to First Aid Level 3, as well as various CPR courses.

Having first aiders in the workplace is a legal compliance requirement for all businesses – this is enforced by the Occupational Health and Safety Act 85 of 1993, the Department of Labour and its inspectors. It is proposed that there be a minimum of two first aiders in each company, building or level, and the minimum guideline ratio is that one in 50 employees must be trained in first aid. It is encouraged that as many people as possible be trained in this life saving skill. Naturally, first aid kits should be easily accessible at all times.

Effective emergency planning saves lives! Make sure your company has all the right steps in place.

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