Emergency testing- It’s more than just a fire drill

emergency testing

Emergency testing is a criteria for a number of the standards. Being prepared is crucial for both businesses and employees to ensure the best response is taken in the event of an emergency. This article goes beyond the standard fire drill when talking about emergency preparedness.

Recently I had a lovely email from one of our past students saying that she had missed our blogs – we had been a little slack and it was true we hadn’t published one for a while.

She suggested two topics…

  1. Being proactive in preventative action
  2. Emergency preparedness and response (going beyond a fire drill).

I wrote about being proactive in the last post so this one covers the second point about emergencies.

“Emergency preparedness and response (going beyond a fire drill)

Have had great feedback from a previous audit to make sure emergency situations identified and tested are relevant e.g. well and good to have standard things like a fire drill at head office or have documented down ‘act of terrorism’ as a possible emergency….

But the demographic and scope of the workforce and tasks need to be considered e.g. physical labouring work with an older workforce – heart attack, working with hazardous materials – accidental release of material / spill when loading / unloading, if have environmental controls in place – controls suddenly fail during works, etc.

Scenarios should be developed to test whether workers know what to do if these things happen.”

This is a great topic because in many organisations the ‘emergency test’ has not yet gone beyond the annual fire drill.

Firstly, let’s look at what the management standards require, although the term ‘emergency’ is limited to only a few management system standards: ISO 14001 (environmental management), AS/NZS 4801 (occupational health and safety), and ISO 22000 (food safety).

So what do these management system standards actually require?

For occupational health and safety, AS/NZS 4801:2001 section 4.4.7 states:

All potential emergency situations shall be identified and emergency procedures documented for preventing and mitigating the associated illness and injury.

The organisation shall review, then revise, where necessary, its emergency preparedness and response procedures, in particular, after the occurrence of incidents or emergency situations.

The organisation shall periodically test such procedures.

For the environment, ISO 14001:2015 states in section 6.1.1:

…the organisation shall determine potential emergency situations, including those that can have an environmental impact.

…and in section 8.2:

The organisation shall establish, implement and maintain the process(es) needed to prepare for and respond to potential emergency situation identified in 6.1.1.

The organisation shall,

  1. d) periodically test the planned response actions, where practicable
  2. e) periodically review and revise the process(es) and planned response actions, in particular after the occurrence of emergency situations or tests.

…and for food safety, ISO 22000:2005 states in 5.7:

Top management shall establish, implement and maintain procedures to manage potential emergency situations that can impact food safety and which are relevant to the role of the organisation in the food chain.

ISO 22000 also has a specific section about withdrawals when unsafe food has left the control of the organisation; and in section 7.10.4 it requires:

The organisation shall verify and record the effectiveness of the withdrawal programme through the use of appropriate techniques (e.g. mock withdrawal or practice withdrawal).

Interestingly, ISO 9001 (Quality), ISO 27001 (information security), and ISO 55001 (asset management) do not have specific requirements for addressing an emergency situation. The people at ISO obviously do not believe that it is possible to have a situation so serious that an emergency response needs to be enacted.

How about such issues as: the failure of a leading supplier to you, a major security breach, or a critical machine breakdown?

Types of Emergencies

Coming back to the question, what type of other emergencies are there, other than just a fire drill? There are many, but what needs to be considered is the likelihood of that event happening. In certain situations, some emergencies would be so extreme that to develop procedures and test them would be just a waste of resources. To give a couple of examples: being attacked by a wild animal whilst working in a high rise office, or responding to a flood when you work in the desert.

So here is a list of possible emergencies that organisations do need to consider. There definitely are more and they will certainly not all be applicable in all instances. However organisations need to think beyond just a “fire drill”…

Flood, hurricane, cyclone, building fire, bush fire, chemical spill, radiological accident, toxic gas release, explosion, civil unrest, workplace violence, cardiac arrest, landslide, medical emergency, security breach, robbery, suspicious activity, tree death, fish kill, earthquake, heat wave, volcanic eruption, traffic accident, power outage, poisoning, terrorism, tsunami, heavy rain, allergic reaction, winter storm, heat wave, dog attack, snake bite, fall, food contamination, disease, plane crash, fatigue, rail incident, fight, suicide attempt, weapon attack, assault, machine breakdown, building collapse,Shark attack, lightning, fire ants, noxious weeds, sexual assault, dam wall collapse, absenteeism, and the list goes on…

What else can you think of?

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