On-site emergency plan


“The effectiveness of what we should do if a disaster strike, will wholly depend upon how well we have prepared the On-Site Emergency Plan and train the people, who will have to implement them.” – R. R. Nair


Modern industry, characterized by complex process and technology is open to an ever increasing danger form disasters, which can seriously affect the safety, security and stability of the organisation. Some of these disasters are natural such as earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, cyclones, lightening, while others are man-made. The man-made disasters included dangerous spills & leak of chemicals, fires & explosions, hit by external objects, contamination & poisoning of food, terrorist attacks, etc. All of these have occurred several times in industries, when unprepared for such disasters creating panic, disorder and confusion. The result has been extensive damage to men and material. Major accidents/disasters in a factory is one which has the potential to cause serious injury or loss of life. It may cause extensive damage to property, loss of life and serious disruption both within and outside the works.

A number of chemicals produced and used in the chemical industry are one of hazardous nature. This hazard arises as a result of three properties, viz.: toxicity, flammability and corrosivity. Sudden and uncontrolled leak of contaminant will give rise to a disastrous condition, magnitude of which will depend on the type of chemicals as well as its inventory.

An emergency plan is an informative document, which acquaints the occupants of a factory or an occupancy with procedures to be implemented, during an emergency. It details standard operational guidelines to emergency controllers and their personnel, who may be required to fulfil a key functional role, during the various stages of an emergency. In other words, it contains critical information, which can assist emergency services personnel to formulate appropriate incident management strategies and tactics, when attending on an emergency at a plant. Since it is a critical document in implementing appropriate management strategies, it is important that the plan is comprehensive and easy to read and use.

Each works shall formulate an emergency/disaster management plan, detailing explicitly what action will be taken in the event of a major accident occurring on site, to prevent further escalation and to ensure rapid control. The emergency planning within the factory premises is known as On-Site Emergency Plan. This is to be dovetailed with Off-Site Emergency Plan. This article will deal with the details of On-Site Emergency Plan.


The On-Site Emergency Plan is a mandatory document under various statutes of India. By virtue of the provision under Section 41-B (4) of the Factories Act, 1948 and its amendments of 1987, the occupier is expected to draw up the On-Site Emergency Plan along with detailed control measures for his factory. The occupier should also make the plan known to the workers and general public in the vicinity of the factory, with safety measures required to be taken by them in case of an emergency. The various state Factories Rules made under the Factories Act, 1948, also prescribe the procedures to be followed in emergency planning, for example, Rule 73 (M), (N), (O), (P), (Q) and (R) of the Maharashtra Factories Rules, 1963, prescribe in details regarding the procedures to be followed in emergency planning, informing workers and the people in the neighbourhood, district administration and Chief Inspector of Factories. Incidentally, under Rule 13 and 14 of the Manufacture, Storage and Import of Hazardous Chemicals (MSIHC) Rules, 1989, framed under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, it is the responsibility of District Collector or District Emergency Authority to prepare an Off-Site Emergency Plan.


An On-Site Emergency Plan must be related to final assessment of the size and nature of events foreseen. It means that it should be specific. The effectiveness of response during emergencies depends on the amount of planning and training. If management is not interested in employee protection and minimizing property loss, very little can be done to promote a safe workplace. It is therefore, management’s responsibility to see that a programme is instituted and that it is frequently reviewed and updated. The input and support of all employees must be obtained to ensure an effective on-site emergency programme. The emergency response plan should be developed locally and should be comprehensive enough to deal with all type of emergencies.


An On-Site Emergency Plan must include the following features:

  1. Emergency escape procedures and emergency escape route assignments.
  2. Procedures to be followed by employees, who remain to perform critical plant operations before they evacuate.
  3. Procedures to account for all employees after emergency evacuations has been completed.
  4. Assigning Rescue and Medical duties for these employees who have to perform them.
  5. The procedures for reporting fire and other emergencies.
  6. Name and regular job titles of persons or departments to be contacted for further information or explanation of duties under the plan.

The emergency action plan should address all potential emergencies, which can be expected in the workplace. It must list in detail the procedures to be taken by those employees who must remain behind to care for essential plant operations until their evacuation becomes absolutely necessary. This may include monitoring plant power supplies, water supplies and other essential services that cannot be shut down for every emergency alarm.

For emergency evacuation, the use of floor plans or workplace maps, which clearly show the emergency escape routes and safe areas, should be included in the plan. All employees must be told, what actions they are to take in the emergency situation that may occur in the workplace. Above all, this plan should be reviewed with employees initially when the plan is developed, whenever the employees responsibilities under the plan change and whenever the plan is changed.


While preparing an On-Site Emergency Plan, the following components should be considered:

  1. Chain of Command
  2. Communications
  3. Counting of Personnel
  4. Emergency Control Centre
  5. Training
  6. Personnel Protection
  7. Medical Assistance
  8. Security
  9. Mutual Aid

5.1 Chain of Command:

A chain of command should be established to minimize confusion, so that employees at the workplace will have no doubt, who has the authority for making decisions. Responsible employees should be selected to co-ordinate the work of emergency response teams. Emergency Response Coordinator is also known as Site Controller or Works Main Controller. The duties and functions of the team leaders can be written and included in the emergency plan document. The size of the team will vary from organisation to organisation. Some of the duties and functions of the Emergency Response Coordinator are given below:

  • To assess the situation and determining whether an emergency exists which requires activating the emergency procedures.
  • To direct all action in the areas including evacuation personnel and minimizing property loss.
  • To ensure that outside emergency services such as police, medical aid and local fire brigade are called in when necessary.
  • To direct the safe shutdowns of plant operations when necessary.
  • To declare the withdrawal of emergency at the site.
  • To look after the rehabilitation of affected persons after withdrawal of emergency at the site.
  • To issue authorised statements to news media and ensure that evidence is preserved for enquires to be conducted by the statutory authorities.

5.2 Communications:

During an emergency involving a major fire or explosion, it may be necessary to evacuate offices in addition to manufacturing areas. During such emergencies, normal services such as electricity, water and telephones may not exist. Under these circumstances, an alternate area may be necessary, where employees can report or which can act as a focal point for incoming and outgoing calls. Since time is an essential element for adequate response, the person designated as being in charge should make this area, as the alternate headquarters, so that he can be easily reached.

A method of communication also is needed to alert employees for evacuation or to take other actions as required in the emergency plan. An Alarm should be provided, which should be audible or seen by all people in the plant and should have an auxiliary power supply in the event of electricity failure. The alarm should be distinctive and recognizable by all employees.

The employer should explain to each employee the means of reporting emergencies. Emergency phone numbers of Key Persons and Organisations should be posted on or near telephones and other conspicuous locations. It may be necessary to notify other key personnel such as Plant Managers, Shift In-Charges, or Physicians during off duty hours. An updated written list should be kept of Key Personnel listed in order of priority.

5.3 Counting of Personnel:

A responsible person in the Control Centre should be appointed to account for personnel and to inform police or emergency response team member of those persons believed missing. The person appointed should make a team and team members are physically capable of performing the duties assigned to them. The team members should be trained in the following areas:

  1. Use of various types of fire extinguishers.
  2. Use of Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA)
  3. First Aid, including cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPS) kits
  4. Evacuation procedures
  5. Chemical spill control procedures
  6. Search and Emergency Rescue procedures

Emergency response teams should be trained, in the types of possible emergencies and the emergency actions to be performed. They should be informed about special hazards, such as storage and usage of flammable materials, toxic chemicals, radioactive sources and water reactive substances to which they may be exposed during fire and other emergencies.

5.4 Emergency Control Centre:

The Emergency Control Centre is the place from which the operations to handle the emergency are directed and coordinated. It will be attended by the Emergency Response Coordinator or Incident Controller or Site Main Controller, Key Personnel and Senior Officers of the Fire Brigade, Police, Officials of the Factory Inspectorate, District Authorities , Emergency Services and Medical Personnel, etc.

The Control Centre should be sited in an area of minimum risk and close to road to allow for ready access by a radio-equipped vehicle for use, if other system fail or extra communications facilities are required. For large sites or where toxic releases might be anticipated, consideration should be given for setting up two Control Centres to ensure, that at least one centre will be available for use, should the other be disabled. If necessary, the police will assist to set up an Emergency Control Centre.

The Emergency Control Centre should consist of:

  • Adequate number of external telephones,
  • Internal telephones, and PA Systems
  • Radio equipment, hot lines, walkie-talkie, mobiles, etc.
  • Plans of the factory to show:
    • Areas of large inventories of hazardous materials, including chemical storage tanks, reactors, drums and compressed gas cylinders
    • Location of radio-active sources.
    • Location of sirens.
    • Location of safety equipment including fire, explosion, spill and gas control kits.
    • Location of firefighting installations.
    • The fire water system and additional source of water, site entrances and road system.
    • Assembly points, shelters, refuge areas, lunch rooms and canteens.

5.5 Training:

Training is important for the effectiveness of an emergency plan. Before implementing an emergency action plan, a sufficient number of persons must be trained to assist in the safe and orderly evacuation of employees or occupants. Training for each type of disaster response is necessary, so that employees or occupants know what actions are required to be taken. In addition to the specialized training imparted for emergency response team members, all employees or occupants should also be trained in:

  • Evacuation plans
  • Shutdown procedures
  • Alarm System
  • Reporting procedures for personnel
  • Types of potential emergencies

These training programmes should be provided:

  • Initially when the plan is developed
  • For all new employees or occupants
  • When new equipment, process, or materials are introduced
  • When procedures have been updated or revised
  • At least once in a year.

The emergency control procedures should be written in concise terms and be made available to all employees or occupants. A mock drill should be held for all personnel at random at least once in a year. The emergency plan should be revised periodically and updated to maintain adequate response personnel and programme efficiency.

5.6 Personal Protection:

Effective personnel protection is essential for any person, who may be exposed to potentially hazardous substances. In an emergency, employees may be exposed to a wide variety of hazardous circumstances, including

  • Chemical splash or contact with toxic materials
  • Unknown atmosphere that may contain inadequate oxygen to sustain life or toxic gases, vapours or mist
  • Falling objects and flying objects
  • Fires and electrical hazards

It is extremely important that employees be adequately protected in these situations. Some of the safety equipment that may be used include:

  • Safety glasses, goggles or face shields for eye protection
  • Helmets and safety shoes for head and foot protection
  • Whole body coverings, gloves, hoods and boots for body protection from chemicals
  • Whole body protection for abnormal environmental conditions such as extreme temperature
  • Respirators for breathing protection

Emergency situations may involve entering confined space to rescue employees overcome by toxic compounds or lack of oxygen. They include tanks, vaults, pits, sewers, pipelines, silos and vessels. Entry into confined spaces can expose the employees to a variety of hazards, including toxic gases, explosive atmospheres, oxygen deficiency, electrical hazards and hazards created by mixers and impellors that have not been deactivated and locked out.

5.7 Medical Assistance:

Medical Assistance plays an important role, during an emergency, especially when a major fire and explosion occurs. Thus a Medical Assistance Team should be formed and the team should have:

  • Persons trained in First-Aid should be available.
  • Eye washers or suitable equipment for quick drenching or flushing must be provided in the work area for immediate emergency use.
  • First-Aid supplies should be provided for emergency use.
  • Ambulance service should be available to handle any emergency.

5.8 Security:

During emergency, it is often necessary to secure the area to prevent unauthorised access and to protect vital records and equipment

5.9 Mutual Aid:

In major emergency situations, resources over and above these available at the works will be needed. In locations, where there are a number of industrial concerns, it may be beneficial to set up a mutual aid programme which will assist to secure additional supplies when needed.


Every industry is exposed to threat of disasters, both man-made and natural due to variety of causes. Experience has shown that such disasters can strike at the most unexpected time. The impact of such disasters depends on how well the management copes with such a situation. A major accident/disaster may be defined as one or more emergencies, which can affect several or all departments and personnel working within a factory or an occupancy and can result in extensive damage to property, loss of life and disruption both inside and outside the works. An important element of mitigation is emergency planning, i.e., recognising that accidents are possible, assessing the consequences of such accidents, and deciding the emergency procedures both On-Site and Off-Site. Emergency planning is just one aspect of the safety, other being maintaining good safety standards of operating inside plants.

The effectiveness of what we should do, if a disaster strike, will wholly depend upon how well we have prepared the On-Site Emergency Plan and train the people, who will have to implement them. The preparation of an On-Site Emergency Plan is in itself an invaluable learning exercise and it should involve the manager, workforce, and the emergency services. The objective of an emergency plan will be to localise the emergency and, if possible, eliminate it. Minimising the effects may include rescue, first aid, evacuation, rehabilitation, and giving information properly to people living nearby. In other words, the disaster plan is in effect, an orderly assimilation of the consideration to the activities necessary for the co-ordination of rescue, firefighting, medical needs, welfare requirements and the preservation of life and property.


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Mr. R. R. NairMr. R. R. Nair has more than 50 year’s experience in Occupational Safety, Health & Fire Protection. He is author of 15 books and about 70 articles in various topics on Safety, Health & Environment. He has carried out more than 60 safety / fire safety audits in various industries, occupancies including high rise buildings.

For more information contact:
M: +91 7045172050, +91 9224212544 Resi: +91 22 27665975
E-mail: shib@vsnl.com / rajan.shib@gmail.com