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Your business in New Zealand is likely a person conducting a business or undertaking (PCBU). This means you have legal responsibilities and obligations under health and safety law. One specific obligation businesses have to ensure is that their workplace and employees are sufficiently prepared for emergencies. One way to prepare your business is by developing an effective emergency plan with emergency procedures.

This article details three important points about emergency procedures, including:

  • the need for an effective emergency plan;
  • testing emergency procedures; and 
  • consulting with employees. 

An Effective Emergency Plan

An emergency plan is a written document detailing what everyone in your business should do in an emergency. It should include specific procedures and processes for what to do in an emergency and how employees can keep themselves safe. Note that there is no one-size-fits-all emergency plan. Likewise, ensure that you tailor your emergency plan to your specific business needs. For example, if your business is more at risk of one kind of emergency, like an earthquake, your plan should recognise and respond to this. 

In addition, your emergency plan should include some essential points, like:

  • a detailed floor plan for your business showing emergency exits and where employees can find emergency supplies, equipment and first aid materials;
  • details about emergency procedures, including evacuation procedures, processes for notifying emergency services, communications procedures, roles for different employees in the event of an emergency, and medical treatment details if required;
  • details about how the business will test emergency plans and procedures, including how often the tests will be; and
  • what training and development the business will give to certain workers for implementing the emergency procedures.

A good rule of thumb for an effective emergency procedure and plan is that everyone in your business knows their respective roles in an emergency. Your plan should also detail who will coordinate different parts of the procedures and what they each must do to keep themselves safe. Ultimately, worker engagement is a vital part of emergency planning.

Testing Your Emergency Procedures

It is critical that you regularly test your business’ emergency procedures. You should test out the procedures at least once per year. There are a few reasons why testing is essential. Firstly, you should repeatedly check and review your procedures to see if you need to update them in any way. For instance, you may need to update your emergency plan to reflect any changes to your business’ operations, workplace or offices. Secondly, you should refresh employees as to what they will need to do in an emergency. Lastly, check if there are any gaps or missing details in the procedures that your business should fill. 

Additionally, there can be multiple different types of tests. For example, a common practice is to pretend that an emergency is occurring (such as a fire drill) and see how well the procedures operate in practice. After a test of your procedures, you should do a review to identify if the procedures should be changed or updated in any way. 

Consulting With Your Employees

In New Zealand, health and safety laws require you to consult and engage with workers on health and safety matters that affect them. Consequently, you should ensure that you engage with employees about emergency planning and procedures. Likewise, you should get input on what risks or challenges your business should address and how procedures should work. Further, ask your employees what kinds of communication and management would best help keep workers safe. 

The added benefit of this kind of engagement is that workers are more likely to understand and effectively implement emergency procedures if they are part of the process of designing them.

Key Takeaways

Your business is required to plan for emergencies and other serious possible risks to your workers’ health and safety. Having an effective emergency plan and emergency procedures is key to ensuring that no harm occurs when emergencies happen. An effective emergency plan should include all key details about how the business and employees should respond and act in an emergency. Importantly, your business should test and review emergency procedures. Workers should also be part of the planning and decision-making process in line with your health and safety obligations. Regular consultation with workers makes for more effective emergency planning. 

For more information about drafting effective emergency procedures, contact LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should all businesses have emergency plans and procedures?

Yes, all businesses should have emergency plans and procedures. However, the nature and extent of these can differ depending on the business’ size and extent of risk. 

How often should my business test its emergency procedure?

At least once per year. Your business should regularly review its emergency procedures in the event of significant changes in the business, for instance, with new operations or new premises.

Should emergency procedures include a floor plan?

Yes, an emergency plan and procedure should have a detailed floor plan that sets out medical supplies, first aid kits, and emergency exits. 

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