By Craig Carlyle, director at Maintenance Transformations

The recent crop of weather emergencies, flooding, cyclones, and headline news such as truck fires on Auckland’s Southern Motorway is a timely reminder of the need to focus on emergency management in the workplace.

We can explore the requirements under the Regulations, but these recent events suggest that the PCBU should take a more nuanced view of what could impact on the work environment, not just internally but externally as well.

Under the General Workplace regulations, PCBU’s must have an emergency plan specific to the workplace. The plan must provide response and evacuation procedures, notifications to emergency service organisations, medical treatment and assistance, and effective communication. Regular testing and worker training is mandated. This is completely sensible; rehearsing the plan helps hard code our reactions.

The Regulations describe the internal view of the workplace; the nature of the work being carried out, the nature of the hazards, the size and location of the workplace and the number and composition of the workforce at the workplace. However, expanding the view to the wider neighbourhood and region may provide a whole litany of potential issues that (heaven forbid) could affect your workers. For instance, if you live in a flood prone valley with a documented history of torrential floods, your emergency plan should consider that possibility. Or if your factory resides beside a known lahar path (such as in Tangiwai), how do you keep your staff safe?

Sound far-fetched? Let’s bring it closer to home. How much do you know about your neighbourhood? What processes are operating, and what chemicals or disaster by-products (chemicals, smoke, gases) could harm your workers? Are you close to the main trunk railway? Ever seen a railway LPG tanker explode? The truck fire mentioned previously was only carrying cooking oil, yet the results were spectacular.

Conversely, how much do your neighbours know about the risks that you impose upon their workers?

Looking at our natural environment, how would your workplace react to a flood, an earthquake, a cyclone, tornado, tsunami or similar? How would you protect people, the process, and plant? Wandering around like a stunned mullet is probably not the recommended management response.

Predicting such hazards is not an exercise in soothsaying, but simply requires some reasoned judgement. Our office is only 24 metres from the Hauraki Gulf. We know from recent history what a Tsunami can do, and even though the last significant tsunami in the area was in pre-human history we take it seriously. The go-pack is always ready, and the evacuation plan is set and understood.

Face it. Emergency planning is more than just an evacuation drill. When considering your emergency plans, you need to consider external influences that could impact your workplace and what pre-planned actions may be required.

So, what’s in your neighbourhood?

Craig Carlyle is director at Maintenance Transformations. His expertise lies in the practical application of maintenance and health and safety management systems in the workplace. He is also a life member of the Maintenance Engineering Society of NZ.

The information and opinions within this column are not necessarily the views or opinions of Xpress Engineer NZ, NZ Engineering News or the parent company, Hayley Media.