Workplace Emergency Management – What You Need To Know

In the unpredictable landscape of the modern workplace, the need for effective workplace emergency management has never been more important. From natural disasters to unforeseen incidents, the ability to respond swiftly and decisively can make the difference between crisis and controlled recovery.

In this blog, our WHS consultants delve into what workplace emergencies are, what effective management during emergencies looks like, the roles and responsibilities of key members of staff and how to increase your workplace emergency preparedness through the creation of an emergency management plan for your business. Furthermore, this information will enable employers and their management teams to safeguard their employees, assets, and continuity in the face of unexpected challenges.

What is Considered a Workplace Emergency?

A workplace emergency can be defined as “… a situation that threatens workers, customers, or the public; disrupts or shuts down operations; or causes physical or environmental damage.”

What is Workplace Emergency Management?

Emergency Management is the process of developing strategies and procedures to effectively respond to unexpected and disruptive events that can harm an organisation’s operations and reputation. It is essential for businesses because it helps them mitigate risks, minimise the impact of crises, and maintain stakeholder trust.

Duty to prepare an Emergency Plan.

A person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) must ensure that an emergency plan is prepared for the workplace, including for workers who may work at multiple workplaces.

As the PCBU, it is your duty to:

  • make an emergency plan, including an effective response to emergencies
  • test the plan.
  • maintain the plan so that it’s always effective.
  • arrange training for workers on the emergency plan and the procedures.
  • implement the plan in an emergency and follow emergency services’ instructions.

You must consult with your workers and their health and safety representatives if they have them, when you are making and reviewing your workplace emergency plan.

For your full duties under the law, see Regulation 43 of the Model Work Health and Safety (WHS) Regulations.

What is an Emergency Plan?

A workplace emergency plan is a written set of instructions that outlines what workers and others at the workplace should do in an emergency. An emergency plan must provide for the following:

  • emergency procedures, including:
    • an effective response to an emergency
    • evacuation procedures −notifying emergency service organisations at the earliest opportunity.
    • medical treatment and assistance, and −effective communication between the person authorized to coordinate the emergency response and all people at the workplace
  • testing of the emergency procedures—including the frequency of testing, and
  • information, training and instruction to relevant workers in relation to implementing the emergency procedures.

What Types of Emergencies Should Be Covered?

Types of emergencies to plan for may include:

  • fire.
  • explosion.
  • medical emergency.
  • rescues.
  • incidents with hazardous chemicals.
  • bomb threats.
  • armed confrontations
  • natural disasters.

Level of Detail—Relevant Factors to be Considered.

A workplace emergency plan does not necessarily have to be lengthy or complex. They should be easy to understand and tailored to the specific workplace where they apply. In preparing an emergency plan, all relevant matters need to be considered including:

  • the nature of the work being carried out at the workplace.
  • the nature of the hazards at the workplace
  • the size and location of the workplace, for example, remoteness, proximity to health services, and
  • the number and composition of the workers, for example, employees, contractors, and other persons at the workplace such as visitors.

Special consideration may need to be provided for workers who travel for work, work alone, or in remote locations.

Training in Emergency Procedures

Workplace emergency response training is a set of workplace emergency preparedness measures designed to help employees respond effectively and safely to such events or disasters. It includes learning about different types of emergencies such as fires, chemical spills, natural disasters, and armed confrontations, as well as understanding how to evacuate the building, administer first aid, and communicate with emergency services.

Workers must be adequately trained in emergency procedures. Arrangements for information, training, and instruction of workers must be set out in the emergency plan itself. Training may include practicing evacuations, identifying assembly points, location of emergency equipment, first aid arrangements, and how to safely shut down machinery. In determining training requirements, the following should be considered:

  • inclusion of emergency procedure training in induction courses for new workers
  • provision of refresher training for existing workers
  • Provide training for short-term contractors or visitors at the workplace (this may not need to be as extensive as may be required for workers), and
  • Provide specific training for individuals who have a formal role in an emergency for example fire wardens, floor wardens, and first aid officers.

Access to the Emergency Plan

Emergency plans, or a summary of key elements of emergency plans, should be readily accessible by workers or on display in the workplace, for example on a notice board.

Reviewing Emergency Plans  

You must maintain your emergency plan, so it remains effective. Reviewing your emergency plan will help maximise workplace emergency preparedness by ensuring your plan is current, and let you know if you need to revise it. You should review your plan when:

  • there are changes to your workplace, like re-location or refurbishments.
  • the number or arrangement of your workforce changes, including if there are more temporary contractors.
  • your work activities increase or change.
  • after testing the plan.

Implementation of Workplace Emergency Management Procedures

The Emergency Planning Committee (EPC)

The EPC is responsible for the development, implementation and maintenance of the site’s workplace emergency management plan, emergency procedures, and training. These responsibilities may be undertaken in conjunction with specialist service providers.

AS3745-2010 Planning for emergencies in facilities requires that EPC consist of no less than two members who are representative of the stakeholders in the site. At least one member of the EPC must be “competent” (ie. a person who has acquired through training, education, qualification, experience, or a combination of these, the knowledge and skill enabling him/her to correctly perform the required task). EPC shall meet annually, and records of EPC meetings shall be made and retained.

EPC responsibilities include:

  • Identify events that could produce emergency situations.
  • Develop an emergency plan and nominate its validity period.
  • Ensure that resources are provided to enable the implementation of the emergency plan.
  • Ensure that the emergency plan is available to the appropriate people.
  • Establish an Emergency Control Organisation (ECO)
  • Ensure that the register of ECO members is current.
  • Establish strategies to ensure visitors are made aware of emergency response procedures.
  • Ensure that the emergency plans and procedures are reviewed annually.

Emergency Control Organisation (ECO)

The Emergency Control Organisation (ECO) consists of support personnel who are responsible for the implementation of the workplace emergency procedures of the site during an emergency. AS 3745:2010 Planning for Emergencies in Facilities outlines the need to establish an Emergency Control Organisation within your facility and appoint a Chief and Deputy Warden (as well as the appointment of Floor or Room Wardens depending on the size of your organisation). The primary role of the ECO is to give top priority to the safety of the occupants and visitors of the site during an emergency. Life safety takes precedence over asset protection.

The key positions of ECO are.

  • Fire Safety Advisor
  • Chief Warden (must be appointed as a minimum)
  • Deputy Chief Warden
  • Area/Floor Wardens (depending on the size of your organisation)
  • Communications Officer
  • First Aiders

ECO Roles & Responsibilities

Fire Safety Advisor

According to the Building Fire Safety Regulation 2008, the employer is required to appoint a Fire Safety Adviser if the building is a Class 2, 3, 5, 6, 7b, 8, 9a, or 9b building that is a workplace where 30 or more workers are normally employed. A Fire Safety Adviser is required to provide or arrange first-response evacuation instruction, and evacuation coordination instructions. In addition, the Fire Safety Adviser is responsible for:

  • The development and maintenance of the Evacuation Sign and Diagram.
  • Provide fire safety advice to building users.
  • Manage the fire safety record keeping for the building:
    • Fire safety installations
    • Emergency Control Organisation (ECO)
    • Coordinate with Fire & Emergency Services during building inspections
  • Arranging or providing general evacuation instruction as well as first response evacuation instruction and evacuation coordination instruction.
  • Monitoring the building’s prescribed fire safety installation maintenance schedule and maintenance records
  • Coordinating the establishment and managing of the Emergency Control Organisation where required.
  • Coordinating evacuation practices.
  • Initiate recovery plans and investigations.
  • Performing the role of the Evacuation Coordinator if normally onsite during business hours. 

Chief Warden

During an emergency, it is the primary role of the Chief Warden to act as the lead point of contact for all Wardens. Their responsibility is to manage all operations so that occupants exit an emergency safely. Primary roles & duties of Chief warden:

  • Maintain a current register of all ECO members.
  • Replace ECO members when a position becomes vacant.
  • Conduct regular exercises.
  • Ensure the emergency response procedures are kept up to date.
  • Attend training & emergency exercises, as required.
  • Ensure personal ECO identification is available.

Deputy Chief Warden

The Deputy Chief Warden is required to assist the Chief Warden with higher-level responsibilities as required. In the event the Chief Warden is not present in an emergency, the Deputy Warden(s) will take their place.

Floor/ Area Warden

Floor Wardens are responsible for the safety of an area or floor in their facility. Ensuring the safety of an entire floor/ area is an extremely important task, with several primary roles and duties:

  • Report any deficiencies of emergency equipment.
  • Ensure that emergency response procedures are effectively communicated with all occupants in their nominated areas.
  • Ensure that occupants are aware of the identity of their area warden.
  • coordinate safety practices (e.g., clear egress paths, access to fire equipment) throughout their areas.
  • Attend training and emergency exercises as required.
  • Ensure personal ECO identification is available.

Communications Officer

Communications officer is responsible for conducting communication tasks during a fire or emergency. Primary roles of the Communications officer are:

  • Ensure personal proficiency in operation of facility communication equipment.
  • Maintain records and logbooks and make them available for emergency response.
  • Ensure the ECO members are proficient in the use of the facility communication equipment.
  • Ensure that emergency communication details are up to date.
  • Attend training and emergency exercises as required.

First Aid Officer

The First Aid Officer is responsible for providing primary care to any personnel suffering from injuries prior to the arrival of the appropriate Emergency Service. The First Aid Officer is therefore required to undergo training to enable them to provide this care. The First Aid Officer ensures the Emergency First Aid Kit is up to date with its content.

Looking For Advice to Manage Emergencies in Your Workplace?

At Bramwell Partners, our WHS Consultants can help maximise your workplace emergency preparedness through development, implementation, and management of an Emergency Management Plan.

If you are interested in improving your business safety management system with an effective Workplace Emergency Management Plan, contact our HR Brisbane team for a free consultation on (07) 3630 5695 or email today!



Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011, C. 3. Available at