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14. Emergency procedures and first aid

14.1 Emergency procedures

14.1.1. Arrangements should be made to deal at all times, and in accordance with any requirements laid down by the competent authority or as advised by the assessment of risks, with emergencies and accidents which might arise from the use of hazardous chemicals at work.

14.1.2. These arrangements, including the procedures to be followed, should be kept up to date in the light of new information such as that provided in chemical safety data sheets, experience with the chemicals and any changes in the work activity.

14.1.3. Workers should be trained in the relevant procedures. These should describe:

(a) arrangements for raising the alarm;

(b) arrangements for calling for appropriate emergency assistance, whether in plant or off site, e.g. fire-fighting services in the event of a fire and emergency medical services;

(c) the use of appropriate personal protection and its limitations;

(d) the evacuation of the work area, premises or establishment and the location of emergency exits and escape routes;

(e) action to minimise the incident, e.g. tackling the fire, controlling leaks and spills, emergency shut-down, removal of portable pressure vessels in case of fire, and action specifically prohibited if persons are put at risk;

(f) the evacuation of nearby premises.

14.1.4. In ,some cases it will be necessary to provide for emergency procedures in the event of a foreseeable incident from adjacent work activities or adjacent establishments, which may affect safety during the use of chemicals. Examples might include arrangements:

(a) to cool vessels or other containers from overpressurisation in the event of a fire nearby;

(b) to stop processes and leave plant and equipment in a safe condition in the event of a chemical release from an adjacent plant or site.

14.1.5. Where an incident may affect people or property outside the establishment in which the work activity takes place, appropriate procedures should be developed in consultation with the national authorities or services that may have relevant responsibilities, e.g. external emergency services and local authorities. Guidelines on preparing an emergency response plan in the event of such an incident can be found in the ILO code of practice, Prevention of major industrial accidents (Geneva, 1991), and in the UNEP handbook, Awareness and preparedness for emergencies at local level (APELL): A process for responding to technological accidents (Paris, 1988).

14.2 First aid

14.2.1. Adequate first-aid arrangements should be provided. These arrangements should take account of the hazardous chemicals used at work, ease of communications, and the emergency services and facilities available. They should be in accordance with any requirements laid down by the competent authority.

14.2.2. As far as is practicable, appropriate means and trained personnel for rendering first aid should be readily available at all times during the use of hazardous chemicals at work. The term "trained personnel" includes persons trained in first aid, registered nurses or medical practitioners, for example.

14.2.3. Where hazardous chemicals are used, first-aiders should be trained as regards:

(a) the hazards associated with the chemicals and how to protect themselves from these hazards;

(b) how to take effective action immediately;

(c) any relevant procedures associated with sending a casualty to hospital.

14.2.4. An assessment of the first-aid needs should be made by the employer. The reasonable practicability of having trained personnel readily available will depend on:

(a) the number of employees;

(b) the nature of the work activity;

(c) the size of the establishment and distribution of workers at the worksite;

(d) the situation of the work activity in relation to the nearest hospital or other emergency medical services that may be required.

14.2.5. The first-aid equipment and facilities should be appropriate for dealing with the hazards to be encountered in the use of chemicals at work. Suitable facilities should be available for workers to use themselves, e.g. emergency showers or eyewash stations. These should be strategically placed to allow for their immediate use in the event of an emergency.

14.2.6. There should be ready access at all times to first- aid equipment and to the facilities provided.

14.2.7. Properly equipped first-aid rooms should be provided in accordance with national laws or standards. In general, these should be provided in all establishments:

(a) where there are significant acute hazards to health from the use of chemicals at work; and

(b) taking into account the factors outlined in paragraph 14.2.4 (assessment of first-aid needs).

14.3 Fire fighting

14.3.1. Suitable fire-fighting equipment should be provided for the quantity and characteristics of the chemicals used at work. Adequate equipment should also cover on-site transport and storage.

14.3.2. Portable fire-fighting extinguisher (hand held or trolley mounted) should be provided for first-stage fire-fighting purposes in accordance with national law and standards. The extinguishing medium should be selected as a result of the assessment of risks and control measures.

14.3.3. For other fires which might affect external storage, such as those involving rubbish or vegetation, water hoses and available water supply should normally be provided.

14.3.4. Fire-fighting equipment should be readily available and located in accordance with national law and standards.

14.3.5. Equipment used for fighting fires at storage facilities, or for ensuring adequate cooling of containers exposed to heat from a nearby fire, should be provided and maintained in accordance with national law or with criteria in national or international standards.

14.3.6. Adequate drainage from the workplace should be provided to deal with water used for fire protection and fire fighting. This water should be adequately contained before final removal so as to minimise environmental damage. Interceptors or special drainage systems, particularly at large installations, should be provided to minimise the risk of contamination of local water courses.

14.3.7. Fire-fighting and fire-protection equipment should be maintained in full working order, which should be ensured by regular inspection.

14.3.8. Suitable training, instruction and information should be given to workers about the hazards of fires involving chemicals and the appropriate precautions to be taken. The training, instruction and information provided should include:

(a) not putting themselves unnecessarily at risk;

(b) when and where to raise the alarm;

(c) the use of fire-fighting and fire protection equipment, for workers expected to use it;

(d) the toxic nature of the fumes given off and first-aid measures;

(e) the proper use of appropriate personal protective equipment;

(f) evacuation procedures;

(g) the circumstances in which workers should not attempt to deal with a fire themselves but should evacuate the area and call in specialist trained fire-fighters.

Where reliance is placed on trained fire-fighters, whether in plant or off site, then such arrangements should be emphasised and the action expected of workers clearly explained.

14.3.9. Adequate information to enable adequate precautions to be taken should be given to trained fire-fighters and other emergency responders coming from off site about the nature of the chemical fire and its hazards. Information about potentially very serious risks, which have been identified, should be given to the employers of off-site fire-fighters, irrespective of whether there has been an incident. This will enable them to take adequate precautions, e.g. to provide specialised clothing where there are highly toxic hazards.

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Updated by AS. Approved by EC. Last update: 30.11.2004.