Q&A with WHS Manager Alana Morris
Q: What are my requirements for Emergency Preparedness and Response?
A: There are specific requirements within the ‘Managing the Work Environment and Facilities’ ACT Code of Practice for Emergency preparedness. (Refer to Section 5- Regulation 43).
A person conducting a business or undertaking must ensure that an emergency plan is prepared for the workplace that provides for:
a) emergency procedures, including:
- an effective response to an emergency
- evacuation procedures
- notification of emergency services at the earliest opportunity
- medical treatment and assistance; and
- effective communication between the person authorised by the person conducting the business or undertaking to coordinate the emergency response and all persons at the workplace.
b) testing of the emergency procedures, including how often they should be tested
c) information, training and instruction to relevant workers in relation to implementing the emergency procedures.
There are different types of emergency situations, including fire or explosion, dangerous chemical release, medical emergency, natural disaster, bomb threats, violence or robbery. In preparing and maintaining an emergency plan, the following must be considered:
- the work being carried out at the workplace
- the specific hazards at a workplace
- the size and location of a workplace
- the number and composition of the workers and other people at a workplace.
The plan must be based on an assessment of the hazards at the workplace, including the possible consequences of an incident occurring as a result of those hazards. For example, a cleaner working by themselves in a city office building will be subject to different hazards to a worker in a chemical plant.
The varying nature of the hazards requires the risks of the particular job to be assessed, and an appropriate emergency procedure put in place. The impact of external hazards that may affect the health and safety of workers should also be taken into account (for example, a chemical storage facility across the road).
The preparation of an emergency plan for a workplace shared by a number of businesses (for example, a shopping centre, construction site or multi-tenanted office building) should be co-ordinated by the person with management or control of the workplace (who may be the property manager, principal contractor or landlord) in consultation with all tenants or businesses at the workplace.
If the business is conducted at such a workplace and an emergency plan has already been prepared, the types of emergency situations that may arise from the business must be considered in the emergency plan.
Workers and their health and safety representatives must be consulted when reviewing, and if necessary, revising, the emergency plan by the person responsible for preparing it. A plan must be developed if there is no emergency plan at the workplace. If the workplace presents a significant hazard in an emergency, consultation with the local emergency services when developing the plan should occur.
The emergency procedures in the emergency plan must clearly explain how to respond in various types of emergency, including how to evacuate people from the workplace in a controlled manner. The procedures should be written clearly and simple to understand. Where relevant, the emergency procedures should address:
- allocation of roles and responsibilities for specific actions in an emergency to persons with appropriate skills, for example appointment of area wardens
- clear lines of communication between the person authorised to co-ordinate the emergency response and all persons at the workplace
- the activation of alarms and alerting staff and other people at the workplace
- the safety of all the people who may be at the workplace in an emergency, including visitors, shift workers and tradespeople
- workers or other persons who will require special assistance to evacuate
- specific procedures for critical functions such as a power shut-off
- identification of safe places
- potential traffic restrictions
- distribution and display of a site plan that illustrates the location of fire protection equipment, emergency exits and assembly points
- the distribution of emergency phone numbers, including out-of-hours contact numbers
- access for emergency services (such as ambulances) and their ability to get close to the work area
- regular evacuation practice drills (at least every twelve months)
- the use and maintenance of equipment required to deal with specific types of emergencies (for example, spill kits, fire extinguishers, early warning systems such as fixed gas monitors or smoke detectors and automatic response systems such as sprinklers)
- regular review of procedures and training.
Emergency procedures must be tested in accordance with the emergency plan in which they are contained. Evacuation procedures should be displayed in a prominent place, for example, on a noticeboard. Workers must be instructed and trained in the procedures. A more comprehensive plan may be needed to address high risk situations such as:
- people sleeping on site (for example, hotels)
- large numbers of people at the site at the same time (for example, stadiums)
- high risk chemical processes and major hazard facilities
There will also be further requirements if you are ISO or OFSC accredited. The Australian Standard 3745:2010 – Planning for Emergencies in Facilities provides further information.
Q: If an employee does not report an incident in the required time frame, can we ask them to take annual and personal leave?
A: No. It is a direct contravention of the Worker’s Compensation Act 1951.
The cost of medical treatment and other expenses relating to a compensable injury are payable to the injured worker. Other expenses may include clothing that was damaged or lost as a result of the accident, the amount of wages lost by the worker whilst attending treatment, transport to and from the treatment, and the cost of accommodation (including meals) if required.
Disagreements can arise over payments of benefits, delays in treatment and medical expenses, and the causes and reporting of injuries. They could also include disagreements over return to work issues such as the injured worker refusing suitable duties, the employer refusing to offer them duties when asked, or where the treating doctor is reluctant to agree to duties offered. Section 195 of the Workers Compensation Act 1951 allows for conciliation and arbitration of disputes in accordance with the Workers Compensation Regulation 2002 (the Regulation). The Regulation stipulates however, that conciliation for a dispute concerning a worker's claim for compensation must be held before arbitration can take place.
Injured workers must take all reasonable steps to return to the workplace as soon as possible, taking into consideration the nature of the injury, and participate and cooperate in the personal injury Plan. Failure to comply may result in weekly compensation payments being stopped.
The Workers Compensation Act 1951 ensures that injured workers:
- are able to nominate their treating doctor to assist in coordinating their personal injury plan and return to work; and,
- are consulted in the development of a personal injury plan established by the insurer in conjunction with the employer, and with the assistance of an approved rehabilitation provider and the nominated treating doctor.
To make a claim, you must:
- Report the injury or disease as soon as practicable to your employer.
- Enter the injury into the register of injuries. A register of injuries must be kept by the employer, which records details of every injury, illness or incident that occurs within the workplace regardless of whether there is a claim for compensation.
- Provide an approved medical certificate from a doctor stating your employment was a substantial contributing factor to the injury.
- Request a claim form from your employer. You may obtain a claim form directly from your employer's insurer if not available from your employer.
- Submit claim form with an approved medical certificate from your nominated treating doctor, stating your employment was a substantial contributing factor to the injury, to the employer or directly to the insurer.
- Make your claim within three years of the injury occurring or of you becoming aware of the injury, and before you voluntarily leave the employer, unless the court allows.
- Attend, if requested, a medical examination arranged by your employer's insurance company, the costs of which will be paid by the insurance company. An insurer may cease your payments if you fail to attend a medical examination arranged for you.
- Participate in and co-operate in the development of a personal injury plan. If you do not comply with reasonable obligations imposed under the personal injury plan, weekly compensation may be stopped under the Workers Compensation Act 1951.
When a worker is injured and seeks to make a workers compensation claim an employer must:
- make compensation claim forms available to the worker;
- record in the register of injuries the date of the notice of injury; and,
- notify the insurer of an injury within 48 hours of being made aware of the workplace injury.
If the employer fails to give notice within the specified timeframe (48 hours), the employer is directly liable for weekly compensation from the end of the notification time until the notice is given to the insurer and cannot be reimbursed by the insurer for compensation paid prior to the date of notification. An employer must:
- forward the worker's claim form to the insurer within seven days of receiving the claim form from the worker;
- cooperate in the development of, and comply with, the insurer's personal injury plan for the injured worker;
- provide vocational rehabilitation
- ensure that any payments to the worker received from the insurer are immediately paid to the injured worker; and,
- provide suitable employment, if available for an injured worker where a request for work is received within six months of the injury.
For further information visit accesscaberra.act.gov.au. WorkSafe ACT are the Workers Compensation Regulators in the ACT
If you have any WHS related enquiries, please don’t hesitate to contact our WHS Manager, Alana Morris on 02 6175 5900