Construction Safety – An Emergency Response Plan

We work in an industry where things don’t always go as planned. Even the best projects have things go wrong and in most occurrences it’s how you handle that situation that determines whether or not the problem persists, or has an impact on the overall project cost and timelines. This article will help you do understand the importance of having an emergency response plan as part of your safety plan and some of the components that make that up.

There are many components that can go into an emergency response plan and according to the IHSA (Infrastructure Health and Safety Association) the following considerations should be taken when beginning to compile one:

  1. hazard identification/assessment
  2. emergency resources
  3. communication systems
  4. administration of the plan
  5. emergency response procedure
  6. communication of the procedure
  7. debriefing and post-traumatic stress procedure

Ultimately all of the above are very important parts of an emergency response plan but there is a list of items that IHSA also outlines that I feel are far more important:

  • Stay calm.
  • Assess the situation.
  • Take command.
  • Provide protection.
  • Aid and manage.
  • Maintain contact.
  • Guide emergency services.

Today I am going to run through a few key points which should address all of the above as well as the list of items related to putting together a plan.


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Creating a Plan and Putting It Into Action

Creating and maintaining additional documents is something we all love to do right? Let’s be honest I know how much we all dislike added paperwork but putting together a formal plan is something that could literally one day save your life. It’s important to create an actual document (crisis plan) because a) its a legal requirement in some locations but b) when something happens having a plan will help prevent you from scrambling and put you into execution mode.

The seven items that were listed at the start of the article are the key items to include but I want to touch on a few of them:

Hazard Identification and Assessment – (Key behavioural items – stay calm)
The key to any plan is understanding what is wrong. One of the biggest mistakes you can do when something goes wrong is start to panic. Staying calm is so important and difficult, it’s only natural to start thinking ‘oh no I’m in so much trouble’. In construction we work around dangerous situations all the time so identifying what’s wrong and the severity of the situation is the first step. Start by asking yourself who, what, where when and why?

Communication System (Key behavioural items – Take Command)Being able to effectively communicate in a time of crisis is just as if not more important that being able to identify the issue. When preparing your communication plan it’s important to ask yourself the following:

  • Who needs to be aware of the issue and what are the timelines?
  • What is the primary means of communication (phone, email, fax, direct communication)
  • What are the contacts for the emergency response (911, an emergency spill response team, a company that specializes in restoration of impacted areas, etc).
  • Third party contacts that can assist (ie your HSE department, insurance, lawyers, PR department, etc)
  • Who is the point person in charge of a situation that all communication will flow through or to

Each of the above is important to know as they directly impact how you communicate in the event of an issue on a construction site. Understanding how you communicate is also important, as an example, on a previous project my team had an group ichat. In the event of an emergency we used the ichat group messages to communicate, not only did this give us a full picture of what was happening but created a great log for the reports that inevitably follow.

Emergency Response Procedure (Key behavioural items – Guide Emergency Services)
After reviewing the situation implementing a proper procedure is important. Often when people are in a stressful situation, having somethinf they’ve reviewed and written down in the past helpsmguidenthem through the difficult time. The various steps within the emergency procedure should be implemented.

If you’ve reviewed the situation and determined that emergency services are required don’t hesitate to contact them.

The only down side to calling an ambulance or fire department when it’s not required is a minor fee. When you compare this to saving someone’s life or preventing massive property damage the difference is staggering.

Make sure that there is someone responsible for making the decision to contact EMS. If your site is large and confusing it it would be wise to assign someone to meet them at the road or at the entrance to your project. Precious moments can be lost when trying to find the issue. Make sure all of the above, including information on closest hospital and fire department are outlined in your emergency response plan.

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construction safety incident

Post Incident Procedures and Safety To Know

So after things have settled down and work on recovering has begun start to think of the following items:

  • What was the damage? What do we need to replace?
  • Is this going to be covered under insurance?
  • Are there any agencies I need to notify (ie services, WSIB, Minsitry of labour, etc)
  • How will this impact the overall project?

Each of the above items are important but its most important you document and file everything. Photos, details, reports, logs , training records etc. In the event a lawsuit is taken out against you and your company these pieces of information can be invaluable.

Information that is reported can also be beneficial in performing a lessons learned on the incident. Dont be afraid to share the incident with the remainder ornrhe company and how it could have been prevented. After all, learning from our mistakes is how we improve as a company and society.

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