October 2019 | Fruit & Vegetable News magazine

Agriculture is amongst the most dangerous Australian industries to work in, and with fire and storm season upon us there is no better time than now to review your emergency procedures.

Depending on your business, emergency situations you need to prepare for might include fire, explosions, power outages, medical situations, rescues, incidents with hazardous chemicals, and natural disasters such as cyclones or floods. Being adequately prepared for these events is crucial in keeping you, your employees, and your business safe.

The Fair Farms Standard requires that businesses have thorough emergency procedures that meet their environmental risks, and effectively train their employees in how to implement them.

What is an emergency procedure?

An emergency procedure is a written set of instructions that outlines what workers and any visitors should do in each type of emergency. To determine what emergencies you need to prepare for, undertake a basic risk assessment of your workplace. For example, if your employees often work near creeks, you need to have a clear procedure for flooding; if working with flammables, then a clear emergency procedure is vital. Procedures do not need to be lengthy or complex, but you do need an easy to understand plan for each emergency outlined in your risk assessment.

What do I need to include in an emergency procedure?

The person responsible in your business for Work Health and Safety (WHS) creates emergency procedures and may do so in consultation with workers. These procedures need to include:

  • Chain of Command – make sure your team knows who is in charge in an emergency or disaster situation.
  • The immediate response to the emergency eg. removing people from a danger area
  • Evacuation procedures – assembly procedures and points, accounting for employees
  • How to notify emergency services and who does this
  • How to provide medical assistance
  • How emergency information will be communicated at the workplace
  • Testing of procedures

The Fair Farms Standard also requires that businesses have a trained and appointed fire warden as part of their procedures. Fire wardens are responsible for preventing fires by being aware of and reducing potential fire hazards in the workplace, and for implementing the emergency procedures for a fire.

Fire warden training can be undertaken in person or online through multiple Registered Training Organisations. You should also contact your local Fire Service who can help with advice about controlled burns and managing risks.

What then?

Once you have developed your emergency procedures, it is very important to train your staff in how to implement the plans. In emergency situations, staff need to know what to do very quickly to ensure everyone’s safety, including their own.

To ensure your procedures are up to date, make sure you review them annually against the Fair Farms Standard. Be aware that rules change so it’s important that you keep up to date. If you do find that your procedures need updating, amend them and re-train your staff in those changes. You should also review your procedures when there are major changes to your business such as relocation, refurbishments, staff number/ composition or new business activities.

Resource tip: SafeWork Australia – Emergency Plans www.safeworkaustralia.gov.au/topic/emergency-plans-and-procedures