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Emergency Control Rooms


Introduction

Certain high-risk workplaces which could potentially cause a health and safety danger over a large area will often have emergency control rooms. Such facilities include nuclear power stations for example, which have the potential to cause widespread devastation both to the health and wellbeing of people in the vicinity, but also to the local environment as well. Not only this, but the danger to health will not just exist in the immediate aftermath of the incident, but will pose a risk for many years to come.

For these places of work, an emergency control room where workers can perform actions such as shutting down pieces of equipment or initiating safety features is a vital object. Ideally it should be located far enough away from the possible cause of the danger (e.g. a nuclear reactor), and needs to be able to withstand the possible threats and consequences of a particular incident. Examples include:



Toxic Gas/Radioactivity

Many industries make use of substances and materials which are extremely hazardous to the health of all living creatures, including people. Any incident which causes this to be released into the air is obviously a serious issue to put it mildly, and so any emergency control rooms need to provide suitable protection against this threat. The distance over which an airborne or radioactive threat can spread means that it will often be impossible for the control room to be located sufficiently far away from the incident epicentre, but other measures can be introduced such as suitable sealing and lining to prevent such substances entering the control room, and ensuring that ventilation systems do not continue to pump contaminants in from outside.



Fire

Fires are a health and safety danger in every place of work, which is why fire safety training is provided to every worker who receives health and safety training. In high risk industries, fires are often even more of a danger as not only will the hazardous substances present often be extremely flammable, but there is also a risk of a large-scale explosion.

Control rooms therefore need to be able to withstand the heat of a raging fire, both in terms of its structural integrity but also for the temperature of those people occupying the inside.



Lines of Communication

In an emergency situation communication is crucial, not only to co-ordinate responses to the incident but also to call for assistance. It is important therefore that communication lines are protected to withstand influences such as fire, and that there are back-up lines too. We have already seen that mobile phones can be vital for calling the emergency services, and these should be available for use also.



Lighting

Emergency control room workers need to be able to see what they are doing! Just like the communication lines, not only do lighting systems need to be protected, but backup systems need to be in place to provide emergency lighting should the main system fail.



Welfare Facilities

In a major disaster, there is a possibility that the occupants of the control room may be trapped inside for a number of days before rescue teams can reach them. Provision should therefore be made for drinking water and food items to be located in the room for emergency use. If possible, toilet and wash facilities would also be a highly advisable addition.



Conclusion

When it comes to health and safety, backup procedures and facilities can be the difference between life and death. An accident or incident can easily damage a system, and so having a backup/spare/alternate option can make all the difference, and should be put into place whenever possible. Taking this one step further, having two emergency control rooms instead of one, located far apart from each other, would provide even more of a safety net, as one could probably be reached if the other one was badly damaged or access to it blocked.




Selected Courses

Please see below for a selection of health and safety courses and qualifications which you may be interested in:

NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety

The NEBOSH National Diploma in Occupational Health and Safety is the flagship NEBOSH qualification, and is the first UK vocational qualification to be developed specifically for health and safety professionals.

The NEBOSH National Diploma provides the core health and safety knowledge (transferable across industry, commerce and the public sector) which, combined with understanding and appropriate application, underpins the competent performance of an occupational health and safety practitioner.

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NEBOSH National General Certificate in Occupational Health and Safety

The NEBOSH General Certificate is one of the most popular and widely-held health and safety qualifications in the UK. It is intended to be taken by managers, supervisors and any other employees who require an understanding of general health and safety issues.

The NEBOSH General Certificate covers the main legal requirements for health and safety in the UK, along with the identification and control of workplace hazards, and the practical application of this knowledge. The general content of the NEBOSH General Certificate syllabus means it is suitable and relevant for those working in virtually any industry, and is often used as a solid foundation for those going on to further study and specialising in a particular area such as construction site health and safety or fire safety.

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IOSH Managing Safely Course

The IOSH Managing Safely course is designed for managers and supervisors of organisations in virtually all industry sectors, in order to give them all they need to know to effectively manage health and safety in the workplace.

Recently updated, the new high impact programme covers key health and safety issues, and includes references to international case studies.

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CITB Site Management SMSTS Course

The Site Management Safety Training Scheme (SMSTS) is one of the most popular health and safety training courses, and is intended for construction site managers, project managers and senior supervisors, as well as proprietors of smaller companies.

Client-based personnel would also benefit from attending the SMSTS course.

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CITB Health and Safety Awareness Course

This course is for those who have entered, or are about to enter, the construction and civil engineering industry as a member of the workforce to help them understand the potential hazards that they face at work on site. It aims to provide a practical summary of health and safety, welfare and environmental health and safety issues.

The course also allows delegates to identify their individual responsibilities for looking after themselves and others, what the employer's duties are and what should be done if they think anyone's health and safety is being put at risk.

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