Construction sites can be dangerous places, and should have an emergency plan so that quick and effective action can be taken in the event of a problem to ease the severity of the situation and to limit the consequences. An emergency plan comprises agreed, recorded and rehearsed strategies, enabling those on site to respond effectively and reliably.
Emergencies that may need to be planned for include (but are not limited to):
- Serious injuries.
- Chemical spill.
- Structural collapse.
- Terrorist activity.
The provision of an emergency plan is in accordance with the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
Emergency planning should begin before the commencement of any works on site. The initial emergency plan may be based on a generic plan adapted to the specific project. As the project progresses it will generally be necessary to amend the plan to take account of any changes, in particular, if an emergency or near miss has occurred.
Some of the basic information that should be included on an emergency plan might include:
- Site address.
- Date on which the emergency plan was prepared.
- Emergency personnel names and contact details.
- Evacuation routes.
- Types of emergencies.
An emergency plan should take into consideration the following:
 Hazard identification/assessment
Due to the complex and fast-changing environment of a construction site, it is important that the assessment of hazards is ongoing. A thorough review of potential hazards may include:
- Proximity to traffic and public ways.
- On-site materials.
- Confined spaces.
- Plant circulation.
- Materials handling and hoisting.
- Environmental issues.
- Working in, or adjacent to, operating facilities.
- Working at height.
- Working at night or in reduced light.
Once the various hazards have been identified, the following needs to be assessed:
- What can go wrong?
- What are the possible consequences?
- What is the strategy for dealing with the consequences in an emergency situation?
 Emergency resources
The plan should also identify on-site resources such as fire extinguishers, spills containment equipment, first aid equipment, and so on. On-site first aiders and other medical staff should be identified.
 Communication systems
This involves detailing the various communication systems that are in place to enable emergency services to be contacted without delay. This can be especially critical if the site is in an isolated area that is difficult to reach. Inclement weather may render communication systems ineffective, and the plan should make clear the contingency strategy if this is the case. On large sites, emergency phones can be provided.
 Emergency response procedure
Any planned procedures must be considered with the expectation that an unfolding situation may change the conditions and circumstances. The basic steps for emergency response are as follows:
- Stay calm.
- Assess the situation.
- Take command of the situation.
- Provide protection.
- Aid and manage.
- Maintain contacts.
- Guide the emergency services.
 Communication and review
The emergency plan should consider how it can be communicated effectively and clearly so that all site personnel are aware of it. The following steps should be taken to review the plan:
- With subcontractors so that it covers their activities.
- With suppliers so that is covers their materials/products.
- As new areas of the site are exposed to work activities.
- With the owner/client to ensure any site-specific hazards are accounted for.
- With health and safety inspectors who may visit the site.
Planning and preparation should also be made for action post-emergency, as simply returning to work may not be straight-forward. Professional counselling may be required for those suffering with post-traumatic stress. In addition, debriefing is necessary to identify how the emergency plan can be improved for the future.
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