In any potentially life-threatening industry in the world the primary goal of emergency response is the preservation of life. It would be extremely hard to prove ‘due diligence’ without submitting proof of an emergency response plan as well as evidence of the necessary training and equipment. One the other hand, the existence of such a plan and procedure could reduce a mine’s exposure to civil or criminal liability in the event of an incident.
1. Establish a planning team
By a appointing a competent team and team leader to develop an Emergency Response Plan the management demonstrates their commitment to the project. The team leader should be well informed of the management’s expectations, deadlines, and budget. More often than not he will be given full authority regarding who he believes should be on his team. The size of the team depends on the company’s location, operations and resources. A mine in a rural area needs to be more self-reliant than one close to supportive emergency services.
2. Evaluate current plans, procedures and incident or drill records
The mine may already have an existing ERP in which case it needs to be assessed and reviewed. It needs to fit the requirements of the current project, as well as those laid down my management. Records of previous emergency events or drills should also be considered.
The contractor company may have an existing Emergency Response Plan that only needs review and revision to make sure it fits the conditions of the current project and meets the requirements of the client mine’s management. The team should also review records of the company’s response to any previous emergency events or drills.
3. Identify hazards
Hazards identified in advance can actually be derailed if a good ERP exists. Probability thereof should be assessed together with the potential impact on workers, property and even business. It helps to start with a list of emergencies that have or could have occurred in the past. A good starting point is to create an inventory of emergencies that have or could have occurred. In an article, ‘Emergency Response Planning for Shaft Sinking,’ Workplace Safety North, in Ontario, USA, provides a blank Vulnerability Analysis Chart has been included in the addendum that uses a numerical scoring system to estimate impact. (https://www.workplacesafetynorth.ca/sites/default/files/MR%20Emergency%20Response%20Planning%20for%20Shaft%20Sinking.pdf) The safest condition is the one with the lowest score. The chart can be used to estimate the probability of an emergency happening.
4. Emergency resources
Mines located near cities will have better and quicker access to resources than mines located in rural or remote locations. The more remote the site the fewer emergency resources will be available. This is not merely a logistical exercise of compiling the correct emergency telephone numbers. Certain mine companies maintain an active relationship emergency service providers ensuring they are well equipped with the correct site plans, and notifying them when there are any major changes to the plant.
5. Review codes and regulations
Knowledge of requirements of relevant codes of practice is essential in order to effectively design an ERP. Failing to follow the dictates of such codes of practice will compromise the safety standard of a mine. Legislation is in place to direct companies on procedures to follow and notification to be given in case of an emergency.
6. Training Programs
A mine company specifically assigns some the responsibility for managing the emergency response training program. Everyone who works for the company requires some type of training that could vary from the conducting of safety meetings, to reviews of procedures, the use of fire extinguishers, evacuation drills, fire survival techniques, to mention just a few. Some or all employees may be trained in first aid and CPR and WHMIS training is mandatory.
A good ERP can be thwarted with an ineffective communication system. Emergencies should be reported effectively to first response support teams, employees, neighboring businesses and residences, the community, news media and other interested parties such as employees’ families and company customers. An Emergency Response Organization Chart can play a major role in maintaining effective communication especially during a crisis.
8. Write the plan
Someone who is knowledgeable and capable to write clear concise copy should write a plan. An editorial review by an editor who was not involved in the development or writing of the content will help to ensure consistency of presentation style while fixing annoying typographic and grammatical errors.
Finally, when the client company formally approves the plan, the plan may be published.
9. Implement the plan
Finally, the plan must be implemented. Management can indicate its “buy-in” to the plan by adding a launch covering letter signed and dated by the most senior manager for the site or operation. Safety meetings or specific training programs introduce the emergency plan to employees. Imported information can be posted on bulletin boards and employee newsletters. Drills should be planned to be as realistic as possible and may include participation by outside support services.