Employees who work in explosive atmospheres, with chemicals and other hazardous substances can be at an increased risk of injury or death from a workplace fire, explosion or chemical spillage.
According to the HSE, industries where employees handle hazardous materials or work on building sites such as construction, manufacturing, transportation and storage are in the top five industries for workplace fatalities.
Fire can affect any industry, with devastating consequences.
As an employer, you have a responsibility to ensure that you put in place procedures that not only reduce the risk of an incident happening, but also how you will deal with an emergency such as a major fire or explosion, if it occurs.
Here we take a look at the types of risks your employees can face, your legal obligations and how you can protect staff in an emergency.
What are the risks to staff from dangerous substances?
Although some industries, such as oil and gas and chemical manufacturing plants, are more likely to experience an emergency resulting from fire or hazardous materials, it is important that all employers assess the risks. Improper handling of dangerous substances can result in fires, chemical spills and explosions in any environment.
In fact, dangerous substances can be found in nearly all workplaces as they include things such as solvents, paints, varnishes, flammable gases, liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), dusts from machining and sanding operations, and dusts from foodstuffs.
Some materials that can cause the rapid escalation of fire, such as cellular plastic foams, are also classed as dangerous substances.
In addition, office buildings, especially large office complexes and tower blocks, can be vulnerable to fires – most commonly caused by electrical or lighting faults.
Employer safety obligations for controlling fire and explosion risks in the workplace
Understandably, industries that use or store hazardous materials are highly regulated. In the UK employers must adhere to the Dangerous Substances and Explosive Atmospheres Regulations (DSEAR). The Regulations aim to protect people from fire and explosion risks related to dangerous substances and potentially explosive atmospheres.
DSEAR places duties on employers to protect people from risks to their safety from fires, explosions and similar events in the workplace.
Similar guidance is issued around the world, including from OSHA in the US, the HSWA in New Zealand and the WHS Act in Australia. Employers are also recommended to implement ‘warning and communication’ systems to ensure a robust crisis response and the protection of employees in the event of an emergency.
Crisis response app – locating staff in severe weather disasters
If the worst happens and your workplace experiences a chemical spill, explosion or fire, identifying and locating any at-risk staff quickly and efficiently is key. It is also important to communicate with other staff members who may be in the vicinity of the incident and keep them away from the area.
To be able to do this quickly and effectively, our crisis response app can help. IncidentEye can instantly locate staff who are in the area of an emergency and establish their safety status. Using geozones, you can isolate a specific area and communicate directly with those who fall within the specified zone. You can also use the app to send emergency notifications to other staff to update them on the situation and ensure they don’t enter any danger zones.
IncidentEye emergency and disaster management solution
IncidentEye is a critical event management solution that helps to locate and protect your staff in an emergency. Consisting of an app and browser-based dashboard for incident management, the IncidentEye incident management solution is downloaded onto employees’ mobile phones in advance and only activated when an incident occurs.
Using geo-location technology allows you to instantly identify which employees could be at risk and communicate crucial information to them via the app on their mobile phones, without causing anxiety to those that aren’t in the area.
IncidentEye has been developed specifically to help businesses to meet their duty of care to employees in the event of an unpredictable workplace emergency such as a fire, explosion, terror attack or natural disaster.