All workplaces need to plan for emergencies such as fires, floods, terrorist threats, serious injuries and violent attack, as well as other incidents more specific to particular types of working environment, such as chemical spills and radioactivity release. With a plan in place and regular drills carried out, everyone will know how to react should the need arise. This may help to ease the situation and reduce the impact of the consequences.

Workplace security drillsWhilst most if not all workplaces are fully aware of the need to undertake regular fire drills, and do so in line with the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, not so many carry out drills for other types of emergencies.

The fact is, ALL emergencies have the potential for wider impact, and it is therefore vital that everyone in the workplace is prepared to deal with them. Training, regular practice and clear plans, actions and responsibilities will all help those involved in an emergency to respond more reliably.

If a major incident in your particular workplace could potentially involve risks to the public, may call for the need to rescue employees, or would require co-ordination with the emergency services, then the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) advises that a written emergency plan should be created. But these plans are useful regardless of your industry sector or level of risk.

What workplace emergency drills should be undertaken regularly?

Other than fire drills which are a legal requirement, workplaces should generally consider the following drills:

  • Terrorism or violent attack, for example shootings or attacks on staff
  • Emergency evacuation – for example in the event of flood or chemical spillage
  • Serious injury
  • Bomb threats

The government recommends that a dynamic lockdown strategy is put in place. This involves procedures designed to dynamically lock down sites in response to a fast moving attack onsite or nearby. The importance of regular drills to ensure the strategy is fully streamlined cannot be over-emphasised.

There will be some types of emergency drills that are a legal requirement depending on the nature of the premises and the work carried out within them, for example:

  • Chemical spillage
  • Gas leak
  • Explosion

The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 cover emergencies, and the Dangerous Substances (Notification and Marking of Sites) Regulations 1990 cover sites where at least 25 tonnes of dangerous substances are held.

How often should I undertake emergency drills in the workplace?

In line with the Fire Safety Order, fire drills should be conducted at least once a year with the results recorded and retained as part of your fire safety and evacuation plan.

The frequency of other emergency drills is not governed by regulations, but it is advisable that these are also conducted once per year or more where there has been an increase in the threat level.

What should an emergency drill cover?

All emergency drills should be based on your individual risk assessments and will vary depending upon the type of premises you run and the nature of your commercial activity.

It is advisable to conduct separate drills for different scenarios, for example night working, lone working and shutdown periods. You will also need to consider how assembly points may need to vary depending on the reason for the evacuation. For example, a fire assembly point in a car park will not necessarily be suitable in the event of a terrorist attack.

You’ll need to plan what to do in all emergency situations, including appointing someone to be responsible for contacting the emergency services and setting out how this is to be done. A competent person – someone with the necessary skills, knowledge and experience to manage an emergency situation – should be nominated to take control.

The following should form part of your emergency drills:

  • Conduct a dry run of raising the alarm and guiding people to safety
  • Make sure emergency exits are clear, well-marked and that there are enough of them to allow everyone to escape quickly
  • Make certain everyone knows how to reach a suitable place of safety and that escape routes are well-marked and free from obstruction
  • Ensure emergency lighting is functioning correctly
  • Check that fire doors close automatically and that emergency exits are not locked or obstructed
  • Make sure rescue equipment is where it should be and that it is in full working order
  • Check that emergency shut-off valves and electrical isolators are working and that whoever needs to use them is aware of where they are located and how to use them
  • Make sure evacuation chairs are in working order and that nominated operators still possess sufficient knowledge to use them safely and effectively
  • Ensure you have all the personnel you need to deal with the emergency, for example first aiders and technical advisers. This will be specific to your premises type and the nature of the risk.
  • Make sure all alarm systems are working. This includes intruder alarms, panic buttons, smoke alarms and fire alarms. This may need to be done in conjunction with your alarm providers depending on the nature of the individual alarms, in particular integrated and monitored alarms.
  • Test your access control to ensure it is possible to lock down designated areas in an emergency
  • Check motion activated sensors are in working order

Security advice from Barry Bros Security

Should your security drill flag up flaws in your emergency response strategy, such as non-functioning or inadequate alarms, CCTV or access control systems or non-compliant fire doors, emergency exits, lighting or signage, talk to Barry Bros Security.

Our specialists have been helping businesses prepare for emergency situations for several decades and have all the expertise and brand-leading technology you need to ensure you are ready for any emergency situation.