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Emergency Preparedness – Types of Workplace Emergencies


The following hazards, form part of the optional (user-selected) training available within our advanced fire warden training course.

In today’s fast-paced and unpredictable world, workplace safety has become a critical concern for both employers and employees. No matter the size or nature of the organisation, emergencies can strike at any time, posing significant risks to individuals and disrupting business operations. It is crucial for businesses to be prepared by understanding the various types of emergency risks that may arise in their workplaces.

There are numerous potential emergency risks that organisations must be prepared to face. Each type of emergency presents its own unique challenges and requires specific response strategies.

Potential Emergencies in the Workplace


Most workplace emergency hazards can be categorised into four main areas:

  1. Environmental Hazards
  2. Facility Hazards
  3. Intentional Acts of Harm &
  4. Medical Emergencies

Some of the following hazards may fit into one or more areas, but for the purposes of this article have only been assigned to one area.



Environmental Hazards

These hazards are harmful to humans and some can be invisible in nature. They include:


Carbon Monoxide Contamination

Carbon monoxide is a dangerous gas that can have serious health implications for occupants who are exposed. Without proper ventilation, occupants are at risk of developing symptoms such as headaches, and dizziness. In more severe cases, high levels of carbon monoxide can cause confusion, loss of consciousness and even death.

Learn more about Carbon monoxide contamination

Radiological Incidents

The harmful effects of radiological incidents can range from minor to serious. Exposure to high levels of radiation can cause burns, sickness, hair loss, and other health issues. In extreme cases, radiation sickness or even death are possible outcomes of a radiological incident.

Radiological incidents can occur when there is a release of harmful radiation, either from a nuclear power plant accident, a radioactive material spill, or even a dirty bomb detonation. Regardless of the cause, the consequences can be devastating.

One of the immediate effects individuals may experience following exposure to high levels of radiation is burns. These burns are similar to thermal burns caused by heat but tend to be more severe and harder to treat.

Learn more about Radiological Incidents

    Chemical Incidents

    Chemical spills, reactions and burns can cause lung diseases, skin rashes, and physical injuries. Exposure to hazardous materials can lead to cancer and neurological damage. Burns from substances such as hot liquids or steam, can also cause severe physical injuries and even death in some cases. In addition to the immediate dangers, exposure to hazardous chemicals and burns can have long-term effects on our health.

    Chemical reactions can release toxic gases or particles that, when inhaled, can lead to severe lung diseases such as asthma, bronchitis, or even chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Prolonged exposure may result in irreversible damage to the respiratory system, impairing its ability to function properly and leading to a decreased quality of life.

    Learn more about Chemical Incidents

    Air-Borne Contaminants

    Air-borne contaminants include a variety of fumes, vapours and mists that can be incredibly harmful to an occupant’s health. Inhalation of these substances can cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat, as well as more serious effects such as lung diseases and even cancer. Exposure to air-borne contaminants can occur in various settings, including industrial facilities, construction sites, laboratories, and even in our own homes.

    These pollutants can originate from numerous sources such as chemicals used in manufacturing processes, exhaust emissions from vehicles and machinery, or the release of harmful gases during construction activities.

    The effects of inhaling these substances depend on their chemical composition and concentration levels.

    Learn more about Air-borne contaminant

    Anthrax/ White Powder Incidents

    Anthrax or white powder incidents can be extremely harmful, even fatal and can also lead to unnecessary panic. In recent years, anthrax or white powder incidents have become a serious concern across the globe.

    The potential harm they pose cannot be underestimated, as exposure to these substances can have severe consequences on both individuals and communities. Anthrax, caused by the Bacillus anthracis bacteria, is a highly infectious disease that primarily affects animals but can also be transmitted to humans.

    Learn more about Anthrax or white powder events

    Gas Leaks

    A gas leak in a building can have serious and even deadly consequences. Inhaling toxic gases can cause lung problems, headaches, nausea and dizziness. Furthermore, a gas leak could lead to an explosion or fire if it comes into contact with an open flame or spark.

    In addition to the immediate health risks and potential for explosions, gas leaks can also have long-term effects on both individuals and the environment. When toxic gases are released into the atmosphere, they contribute to air pollution, which can harm not only humans but also plants and animals.

    Exposure to certain types of gas leaks, such as carbon monoxide (CO), poses a particularly grave threat. CO is an odourless and colourless gas that is produced by incomplete combustion of fuels like natural gas or propane.

    Learn more about a Gas leak

    Severe Storms

    Wind, rain, hail, flooding, earthquakes, bushfire, lightening strikes, tsunamis, volcanic activity and other natural disasters can destroy physical infrastructure and buildings, leading to personal injury. In addition to the destruction of physical infrastructure and buildings, natural disasters have the potential to cause severe personal injuries.

    When windstorms whip through an area, powerful gusts can uproot trees, tear apart structures, and hurl debris with tremendous force. People caught in these storms may be struck by flying objects or suffer from collapsing structures, resulting in various degrees of injury.

    Rainfall can trigger flash floods or lead to widespread flooding in low-lying areas.

    Learn more about the risks with Severe storms

    Natural Flooding

    Natural floods can disrupt building operations, damage property and assets, and lead to costly repairs. They can also cause injury or even death, as well as loss of life when occupants are unable to evacuate the premises in time. In addition to these immediate dangers, natural floods can have long-lasting impacts on the affected areas.

    The aftermath of a flood often includes the spread of waterborne diseases, contamination of drinking water sources, and destruction of essential infrastructure such as roads and bridges.

    The economic toll caused by natural floods is substantial. Businesses may experience significant financial losses due to interrupted operations, damaged inventory or equipment, and decreased customer demand in the aftermath.

    Learn more about Natural Flooding



    Facility Hazards

    Facility hazards are a significant concern for any workplace, as they can compromise the safety and well-being of employees and visitors. Facility hazards include:



    Fire & Smoke

    The event of a fire and smoke in a building emergencies can cause serious physical harm to occupants, including burns, smoke inhalation, and even death. Therefore, it is crucial for individuals to be well-prepared and educated on how to respond in such situations. Understanding the potential dangers posed by fire and smoke is essential in order to mitigate risks and ensure the safety of all occupants.

    Burns are one of the most immediate threats during a building emergency. The intense heat generated by flames can cause severe burns, leading to excruciating pain, permanent disfigurement, or even loss of life. Incidents may also be extended in their severity by a lack of emergency equipment including fire extinguishers, emergency exits, first aid kits.

    Learn more about Fire & smoke

    Domestic Flooding

    Domestic flooding can have the same harmful effects as natural flooding but may be managed in a different way.  You may have greater opportunity to evacuate outside of your facility in a domestic flood as there may be less risk on the outside of the building compared with a natural flood. In addition to the potential for evacuation, domestic flooding also presents unique challenges in terms of damage control and recovery.

    While natural floods can result from severe weather events such as hurricanes or heavy rainstorms, domestic flooding is often caused by internal factors like burst pipes, faulty plumbing systems, or appliance malfunctions.

    One advantage of managing domestic flooding is that it may be detected earlier compared to natural flooding.

    Learn more about Domestic Flooding

    Building or Structural Collapse

    Building damage or collapse can restrict safe forms of evacuation and can cause physical harm to occupants. In addition, building damage or collapse can hinder the ability of first aid and emergency services to reach and rescue occupants in a timely manner.

    The structural integrity of a building plays a crucial role in providing a safe environment during events such as fires, earthquakes, or severe weather events.

    When a building is compromised due to damage or collapse, it may result in blocked exits, stairwells, or hallways. This obstruction can impede the evacuation process and prevent people from safely exiting the premises.

    Learn more about Building damage or collapse

    Building Power Failure

    Building power outages can make it hard for mobility impaired occupants to move around, affect the temperature, and reduce the amount of fresh air. They can also limit how long you can stay on site if there’s inadequate power backup for emergency lighting.

    In addition to these challenges, power outages in buildings can have several other significant consequences. One critical aspect affected by such disruptions is communication. Lack of power can render communication systems like intercoms, phones, and even cell towers useless, impeding the ability to reach out for help or relay important information.

    Furthermore, power outages can disrupt vital medical equipment that relies on electricity to function properly.

    Dangerous Plant / Machinery / Electrocution

    Dangerous plant or equipment has the potential to cause injury or death if mishandled. It is crucial to recognize the significance of handling dangerous plants or equipment with utmost care and caution.

    Whether it be in industrial settings, construction sites, laboratories, or even our everyday surroundings, being aware of potential hazards is paramount for ensuring personal safety and preventing tragic consequences.

    The risks associated with mishandling dangerous plant or equipment can vary greatly depending on the specific nature of the item involved.

    Learn more about Dangerous plant or machinery accidents

    Confined Space Incidents

    Confined space incidents can result in respiratory and neurological damage or even death. Restricted egress, lack of oxygen, toxic gases, and hazardous materials are common causes. In these confined spaces, such as tanks, vessels, tunnels, or underground chambers, workers often encounter a multitude of risks that can have severe consequences. One of the primary hazards is restricted egress.

    The limited entry and exit points in these spaces make it challenging for workers to escape quickly in case of an emergency situation.

    Moreover, the lack of oxygen within confined spaces poses a significant workplace health and safety threat to those inside. Oxygen depletion can occur due to inadequate ventilation or displacement by other gases present.

    Learn more about Confined space incidents


    Explosions can damage buildings and release harmful materials into the environment. In addition to the immediate destruction caused by explosions, the aftermath can have far-reaching consequences for both human health and the environment. When buildings are damaged or completely destroyed, they not only result in financial losses but also displace communities and disrupt people’s lives.

    The release of harmful materials into the environment further exacerbates these problems. Depending on the nature of what exploded, a wide range of dangerous substances such as toxic gases, heavy metals, or radioactive materials can be dispersed into nearby areas.

    Learn more about the risks of Explosion

    Water Supply Failure

    Not having water to drink or for fire safety systems can put occupants at risk. Without access to clean drinking water, occupants are left vulnerable to dehydration and a multitude of health issues. Water is essential for the proper functioning of our bodies, and its absence can quickly lead to fatigue, dizziness, and even organ failure in extreme cases.

    The lack of water can also compromise personal hygiene practices, making individuals more susceptible to bacterial or viral infections.

    Furthermore, the absence of water for fire safety systems presents an alarming threat to the safety and wellbeing of all occupants.

    Learn more about Water supply failure

    Lift Entrapment

    Lift entrapment can cause psychological or cascading physical and emotional distress, including long-term mental illness, fear or physical trauma. These effects differ for each occupant. Some individuals may experience immediate panic or anxiety when trapped in a lift, while others might initially remain calm but gradually develop symptoms of distress over time. The psychological effects can range from temporary feelings of unease and stress to more severe conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or claustrophobia.

    For some occupants, the fear of being confined in a small space triggers intense anxiety and uncontrollable thoughts. They may feel trapped, helpless, and struggle with breathing difficulties.

    Learn more about Lift entrapment

    Internal / External Communications Failure

    Communication blackouts in a building, can be detrimental to an emergency plan. Without clear lines of communication, it becomes difficult to implement emergency response measures and some emergency notification systems (including duress or fire systems), may not function as intended.

    During communication blackouts, the ability to relay crucial information and coordinate actions among emergency responders is severely hindered. This lack of effective communication can lead to delays in deploying resources, confusion in understanding the extent of the emergency, and increased risks for both first responders and those affected by the situation.

    In a building experiencing a communication blackout, emergency response measures such as evacuations, lockdowns, or medical assistance might not be promptly initiated or properly coordinated.

    Learn more about the risks of a Comms Failure



    Intentional Acts of Harm

    Intentional acts of harm refer to any deliberate actions taken by individuals with the intention to cause harm or injury to themselves or others within the workplace environment. Examples of intentional acts of harm may include:



    Bomb or Threat of

    Bombs can cause significant harm and threats can make occupants anxious, stressed, and less productive. Evacuating can be costly and dangerous. Additional risks for occupants subject to a facility bomb threat may also include potential unknown harm waiting for them outside the building. In the face of a bomb threat, the safety and well-being of individuals inside a facility become paramount.

    The fear and uncertainty that permeate during such situations can take an immense toll on occupants, affecting their mental health and overall productivity.

    The sheer presence of a bomb threat instils anxiety and stress among those present. The constant worry about their own safety, as well as that of their colleagues or loved ones, can create a tense environment within the facility.

    Learn more about the risks of a Bomb Threat


    Assaults from internal or external assailants can leave occupants injured, feeling unsafe and traumatised. The aftermath of such assaults can have a profound impact on individuals, causing a wide range of physical and emotional distress. In addition to the immediate physical injuries inflicted upon victims, the psychological scars left behind can be long-lasting and debilitating.

    Internally, workplace violence can create an environment where occupants constantly fear for their safety. The mere presence of an abusive co-worker or partner can generate intense anxiety, leading to feelings of helplessness and vulnerability.

    Learn more about Assault

    Civil Disorder

    Civil disorder can result in physical harm to individuals and damage to property, leading to an unsafe and chaotic environment. In such situations, the social fabric of a community can unravel, eroding trust and cooperation among its members.

    Civil disorder often arises from deep-rooted grievances, inequality, or clashes in ideologies. It manifests in various forms like protests, riots, looting, or acts of vandalism.

    The consequences of civil disorder extend far beyond immediate physical harm and property damage. The psychological impact on both individuals and communities is profound.

    Learn more about Civil- disorder & unrest

    Unarmed Intrusion

    Building intrusions can lead to physical confrontations, increased stress levels, and safety concerns for occupants and organisations. Intrusions into buildings can have severe consequences for both individuals and organizations.

    The immediate result of such incidents often involves physical confrontations, as intruders may encounter occupants or security personnel who are tasked with protecting the premises. These confrontations can escalate quickly, resulting in injuries or harm to those involved.

    The impact of building intrusions extends beyond just physical altercations. They also have a profound effect on the mental state of occupants, causing increased stress levels and anxiety.

    Learn more about Unarmed building intrusion

    Armed Intrusion

    Weaponised attacks can lead to serious injuries or fatalities of occupants. These attacks are often carried out with the intention to cause harm, instil fear, or exert control over a particular group of people. Whether it be in the context of warfare, terrorism, or personal disputes, weaponized attacks have devastating consequences.

    The use of firearms, explosives, knives, chemical agents, or even vehicles as weapons can result in severe injuries or loss of lives among those targeted. Bullets tearing through flesh and bones can cause permanent disabilities or fatalities within seconds.

    Learn more about Armed offender

    Siege / Hostage

    Building siege or hostage situations can have severe and lasting impacts on occupants and employers. Occupants may experience fear and vulnerability. They may suffer from psychological trauma, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of being trapped in a hostile environment.

    The intense fear of their lives being in imminent danger can leave them feeling helpless and uncertain about their safety even after the incident has ended.

    The psychological effects can vary among individuals depending on factors such as the duration of the situation, the level of violence or threats encountered, and personal resilience.

    Learn more about Siege or hostage


    The effects of self-harm or suicide can be extremely distressing for the victim and their loved ones. And occupants witnessing it can suffer from long-lasting effects on their mental health. Witnessing self-harm or suicide can have a profound impact on the mental well-being of individuals who are present during such traumatic events.

    The distress and anguish experienced by those witnesses can linger long after the incident has occurred, leaving lasting effects on their overall mental health.

    Immediately following such an event, witnesses may experience feelings of shock, helplessness, and intense emotional turmoil. They might struggle to process what they have seen, often replaying the distressing images in their minds.

    Learn more about Self-harm



    Workplace Medical Emergencies (including first aid)



    Workplace Medical Emergencies

    One of the key types of workplace hazards that employees may face is medical emergencies. These emergencies can range from sudden cardiac arrests and strokes to severe allergic reactions and injuries caused by accidents or falls.

    Being prepared for first aid, including having readily accessible specific workplace first aid procedures, first aid officers to respond to an emergency, and appropriate training and instruction –  is crucial in order to provide immediate medical assistance and potentially save lives.

    Learn more about the different types of workplace Medical emergency

    How to determine what type of emergency is relevant to your workplace emergency plan


    In order to determine what emergencies are relevant to your workplace, it is crucial to first understand the types of workplace hazards that exist. These hazards can vary depending on the nature of your workplace, the relevant safety legislation, your facility location and the industry you are in.

    Once you have identified the potential hazards specific to your workplace, the next step is to assess their likelihood and severity. This will help prioritize which emergencies are most relevant and should be addressed with appropriate emergency preparedness. For example, if you work in an area prone to natural flooding, it is important to develop a plan that includes evacuation procedures and training for employees.

    Furthermore, consulting with local authorities or industry experts can provide valuable insights into specific risks associated with your workplace. They can help identify any regulations or guidelines that need to be followed in preparing for emergencies. Regular reviews and updates of emergency procedures should also be conducted to ensure they remain relevant and effective in addressing potential emergencies in the workplace.

    Workplaces have an emergency plan to address these risks in an easy to understand and tailored document that identifies:

    • the workplace activity and risks
    • what to do in the event of an emergency, including the procedures for managing off-site emergency situations, workers who travel or those who work alone.
    • how the organisation will prepare for an emergency
    • what workers must do
    • what the chain of command will be
    • how effective communication between the person authorised to take charge and their control organisation and management structures will take place
    • the legal requirements, including the responsibility of the building owner and any relevant workplace code of practice
    • specific training for fire wardens,
    • what number and composition of emergency personnel in the workplace
    • what their formal roles in an emergency are
    • summary of key elements of life safety systems within the building
    • How the plan will help workers exit the building when required

    This set of instructions should not be lengthy or complex. It should be based on a practical assessment of hazards associated with the work activity

    Training on hazards needs to be relevant


    When it comes to training on hazards in the workplace, relevance is crucial. Employees need to be trained on the specific types of emergency hazards that are relevant to their work environment. This includes understanding the different types of hazards that can occur in their particular industry or job role.

    Furthermore, training needs to address not only the general types of workplace emergency hazards but also the specific risks that are unique to each organization. This means taking into account factors such as the layout of the workplace, the equipment used, and any specific processes or procedures that may increase risk. By providing relevant training tailored to these specific factors, employees will have a better understanding of how to identify and respond to potential hazards in their own work environment.

    Overall, training on hazards needs to be relevant so that employees are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary to handle emergencies effectively. By focusing on the specific types of hazards and risks encountered in their industry or workplace, employees can develop a heightened awareness and preparedness for potential emergencies. Ultimately, this leads to a safer work environment for everyone involved and reduces the likelihood of accidents or injuries caused by inadequate hazard response.


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