How ISO 45001:2018 can help your business manage flood hazards and risks

Reading Time: 5 minutes
Published on: April 22, 2022

The storms and floods that hit New South Wales and Queensland in the first few months of 2022 resulted in ruined homes, businesses that were literally sunken and a clean-up bill expected to top $240 million in NSW alone, according to the Insurance Council of Australia.

There’s no question we’re living in unprecedented weather conditions. Still, is it possible for businesses to be ready to face such an emergency situation when it comes to employees’ safety at work?

One way to approach this is by implementing a Management System that meets the requirements of ISO 45001:2018 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems. In a nutshell, this standard provides a framework for businesses to manage Occupational Health and Safety risks and opportunities, eliminate hazards, and minimise threats by taking effective preventive actions to avert workers’ work-related injury and ill-health and provide a safe and healthy environment.

Workplace emergencies can, of course, happen at any time as a result of human error or nature’s actions. A Management System that meets the requirements of ISO 45001:2018 obviously can’t always stop the unexpected from happening, but it will ensure your organisation has a response plan to deal with it in the best way possible. Keep reading to find out how!

ISO 45001:2018 emergency response planning step by step

ISO 45001:2018 emergency response planning

The ISO 45001:2018 standard addresses an organisation’s emergency response in Clause Hazard identification and Clause 8.2 Emergency preparedness and response.

For instance, Clause 8.2 states that the organisation shall establish, implement and maintain processes required to prepare for and respond to potential emergency situations.

The following steps will show how your business can do that:

Step 1: Hazard identification

Clause defines that the organisation shall establish, implement and maintain a process(es) for hazard identification that is ongoing and proactive. Among other potential hazards, the business shall take into account potential emergency situations.

The business should consider factors such as its location (is it a potential flood or bushfire area?), nature of work (heavy machinery or use of chemicals), and premises conditions and layout. All potential emergencies must be identified and documented, so the business can assess the risks associated with them.

Step 2: Determine your emergency resources

Once potential emergency situations are identified, you need to understand what your organisation needs to have in place to respond to them. These include internal and external resources, from the provision of first aid, basic medical supplies and items like firefighting equipment, to access to urgent medical care.

In the context of floods, the organisation can have in mind reactive controls such as the availability of communication channels, generators, and medical aid.

Step 3: Plan your emergency response

The emergency response planning details the entire process a company should follow in case of an unforeseen hazardous event. This may include different procedures for distinct emergencies, but overall the plan must include:

  • Communication instructions (how to alert workers about danger, how to call for help, etc.)
  • Evacuation procedures
  • Emergency facilities

For example, when dealing with chemicals and toxic materials, the plan might require the isolation of the area to avoid contamination, or in case of a fire, workers must evacuate immediately. Each potential emergency should be evaluated in detail to determine its most effective response.

When it comes to floods, the basic weather forecast can trigger an emergency response in which the very first step is to monitor weather conditions. In order to ensure everyone’s safety during an unfolding event, SafeWork NSW recommends employers and workers to:

  • Listen to the local radio station for further warnings and advice
  • Assess the potential for hazardous conditions when travelling to work and what can be done to mitigate that risk
  • Keep an eye out for any fallen or dangerous trees or powerlines
  • Stay away from electrical signs, streetlights, electrical cables or other conductive material  (if the company’s activities are related to these, the risk must be constantly assessed)
  • Do not touch switchboards if they have been damaged by water
  • Do not do your own electrical work – it is illegal and dangerous
The preventive safety approach must also be taken during recovery activities. For instance, asbestos-containing materials may be found during the clean-up of buildings damaged by floods, so SafeWork NSW’s recommendation is to source a licensed asbestos removalist to remove any amount of asbestos. In some cases, emergency services may undertake this role.
Step 4: Communicate and train stakeholders

The emergency response plan won’t be effective unless all employees and other relevant stakeholders are aware of and trained for executing it.

When preparing for responding to potential emergencies, Clause 8.2 of ISO 45001:2018 determines that the organisation shall:

  • Provide training for the planned response;
  • Periodically test and exercise the planned response capability;
  • Evaluate performance and, as necessary, revise the planned response, including after testing and, in particular, after the occurrence of emergency situations;
  • Communicate and provide relevant information to all workers on their duties and responsibilities;
  • Communicate relevant information to contractors, visitors, emergency response services, government authorities and, as appropriate, the local community;
  • Take into account the needs and capabilities of all relevant interested parties and ensure their involvement, as appropriate, in the development of the planned response.

Emergency Preparedness and Response Processes, along with training records and outcomes, need to be documented and kept in the organisation’s management system, as these will be assessed during the certification audits. Meeting the certification-readiness requirements of the ISO 45001:2018 standard provides an extra assurance that the organisation won’t get lost in the busy daily routine and neglect emergency response planning, hence providing a safer and healthier environment for everyone.

Step 5: Review and Evaluate the emergency response

Wrapping up the emergency response planning, step 5 comprises the review and evaluation process. This indicates that the organisation must frequently review the plan following drills or after an emergency is faced. Workers’ feedback and adjustments to current conditions must also be considered. If new processes are established as a result of review and evaluation, they need to be documented, communicated and trained/tested as detailed in step 4.

Reviewing and evaluating the emergency response

Effective emergency response planning is only one of the advantages of implementing the requirements of the ISO 45001:2018 Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems standard in an organisation.

Businesses who have achieved certification to ISO 45001:2018 have also experienced reduced costs due to fewer accidents and incidents, greater market potential (e.g. eligibility for tenders), and improved stakeholder confidence, just to name a few benefits.

We can help you find the best approach for your business towards implementing and achieving certification to ISO 45001:2018! Call us now on 1300 614 897, send us an email, or book your online FREE strategy session to get advice from our experts.


About the author

Managing Director at ISO Certification Experts and ICExperts Academy

Erica is the Managing Director of ISO Certification Experts and ICExperts Academy. She has been helping businesses with their ISO Certification needs for over 20 years. Erica is also a Certified trainer, implementer and auditor for the ISO 9001, ISO 14001, ISO 45001 and ISO 27001 standards. Erica primarily heads up the day-to-day operations of the businesses, and is also a current member of the Standards Australia Committees: QR-008 Quality Systems and ISO 9001 Quality Management Brand Integrity.

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