By Simon Abraham

2 April 2015

Fire is a potential hazard in all workplaces and represents one of many reasons why your office may need to be evacuated at a moments notice. It is important for employers to reduce the risk of fire danger as much as possible, as well as ensuring that proper processes are in place to facilitate the safe evacuation of employees.

Section 21 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act 2004 (“the Act”) imposes obligations on employers to ensure that workplaces are safe and without risks to health “so far as reasonably practical”. Work Safe Victoria has published a Compliance Code to assist as a practical guide to ensure employers can properly comply with s.21. These obligations include ensuring that employees have access to a training plan, are trained in evacuation procedures and ensuring emergency exits are appropriately marked and comply with part D1 of the Building Code of Australia.

In training your employees in how to evacuate, it is important to implement an evacuation plan that is efficient and easy to follow. The plan should cover strategies to immediately assess the fire hazard and, either take steps to minimize the hazard, or evacuate quickly and safely. Employers need to ensure that paths to exits comply with the specifications in the Building Code of Australia, part D1 Provisions for escape. This includes ensuring that your buildings fire escapes are safe, risk-free and easy to access. Your work space should be free of obstructions and your employees should be able to exit the workplace quickly and safely.

It is also important to consider whether your office has first aid facilities on hand for immediate use, should the need arise in an emergency. Employers need to critically analyse whether staff have been properly trained in how to administer the basics of emergency first aid. An important question is “When was the last time my staff undertook any form of first aid training?” Worksafe Victoria have outlined that in order to achieve compliance with the Code, your office must have at least one first aid officer per 10-50 employees. The minimum level of training required of a first aid officer is the “senior first aid certificate” (sometimes referred to as a level 2 first aid certificate). It is important to consider whether you may require additional staff to be trained as first aid officers, depending on the size of your business.

It may have been some time since your workplace conducted any fire safety drills, or participated in any first aid training. It is important to assess your readiness before any potential incidents. The most important asset in your workplace is the safety and security of your staff! To find out more about how to comply with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and other relevant building codes, contact Tisher Liner FC Law.

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