Home Resources Blog August 2020

ISO 45001 - Emergency Preparedness

05 August 2020
We've hosted a few webinars lately on H&S related topics, unsurprisingly Emergency Preparedness has been a hot topic in our Q&A sections.  

With that in mind our H&S Principal Assessor Terry Fisher has taken the time to answer two of the most common questions in this short blog. 

Emergency preparedness plans can include natural, technical and man-made events that can occur inside and outside normal working hours. The plans and controls may contain routine controls and activities as well as incident responses. Eg. First aid stations may be routinely checked to ensure adequate provision is maintained.

Q1) How to test for emergency preparedness for a pandemic (ISO 45001) or other unusual event?

Example answer:

How would a hospital prepare and train for an air crash – an unusual event but they prepare procedures on how to control patient flow based on severity, have resources and emergency response plans to gain addition resources should they need to etc.
The rationale would be the same for any unusual event:

  • What can you reasonably foresee?
  • How can you prevent or reduce the likelihood / severity of the event?
  • What can you control or reduce the impact of?
  • What resources and plans would be reasonable to have in place?
  • If you had to initiate the plans and use the resources – what training would be needed?

Can elements of the plans be tried and practiced?

Remember - plans can be tested in whole or in part - so it may be acceptable to train and test core elements of the plans rather than a full scale exercise. The ‘process’ of risk assessment and response requirement remains consistent whatever the scenario.
The pandemic would greatly depend on the nature of the pandemic illness itself and the context of the organisation.
An Assessors could/will ask:

  • What have you considered in your risk assessment for?
  • What emergency situations are regarded as foreseeable and relevant to the organisation?
  • What controls or risk reduction measures have been developed and implemented?
  • Have these been trained for and tested?

It is also worth considering:

Does the organisation have business continuity plans – why? A great number of operations have fire / emergency response plans for events they have never experienced and if/when an event is realised, they do what they can to reduce the risk / impact on the people that may be affected – so it is always based on a risk assessment and taking action.

Q2) When to trigger Emergency Preparedness for COVID-19?

Example answer:

When the risk of the hazard is likely to be realised, so when we have information/indicators, that the hazard is likely and hopefully, proactively before it is a reality. Again some additional controls may be introduced to prevent the full escalation to an Emergency condition.

‘Normal’ operations for a bio-hazard lab – they routinely have a high level of strict controls and working hygiene practices. However, they plan for systems failures (LEV not working), torn/ damaged PPE and personal injury / illness.
Alternatively, Fabrication Assembly operations would not ‘Normally’ have social distancing and additional protection requirements – so this is greatly influenced by the ‘Context of the Organisation’ and how it operates.
Is implementing social distancing controls an emergency or just a new control method?
Emergency Preparedness is also there to reduce risk if circumstances and other controls are not fully effective. 
What if the protection controls in place fail and someone is suspected of having COVID-19 in the workplace – what are you going to do? 

Plans need to be made, resourced, communicated and trained for.
Each organisation is unique and we can only use a systematic and controlled approach to the management of risk.
To summarise, there is no one simple answer to these questions (and others relating to emergency preparedeness) as it will mean something potentially different to each person and each organisation.
As we have all seen, things change and we must adapt and continue to be proactive in our approach.
Stay safe, well and keep up the great work of protecting each other, not just in the workplace but everywhere.

Authored: Terry Fisher, NQA UK Principal Assessor