WA: second warning issued on cyclone season contingency plans

The following article is a news item provided for the benefit of the Workplace Health and Safety profession. Its content does not necessarily reflect the views of the Australian Institute of Health & Safety.
Monday, 20 January, 2020 - 15:00
Industry news
Western Australia

Mining and petroleum operators in Western Australia were recently reminded to review their contingency plans for the cyclone season, which has already started in some regions of the state.

Employers in control of workplaces in cyclone sensitive regions must have adequate plans in place and provide adequate training to protect workers in the event of a cyclone.

According to the Bureau of Meteorology’s Australian Tropical Cyclone Outlook, the cyclone season runs from November to April.

Each year an average of five tropical cyclones occur in the North Western sub-region and an average of seven cyclones occur in the Western region.

Tropical cyclones out to sea and inland often cause damaging winds, large and dangerous waves, storm surges in coastal areas and floods.

Cyclones can isolate workers by cutting off access to emergency services, roads, transport, power, infrastructure and communications.

WA’s Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety director for mines safety Andrew Chaplyn said cyclonic weather conditions increase hazards to workers and may devastate mining operations.

“It is critical for mining and petroleum operators to prepare response plans for the foreseeable risks of cyclones,” Chaplyn said.

“It is equally important to coordinate the plans for sites with multiple employers by appropriately training all workers, so that each person knows exactly what actions to take in the event of a cyclone.”

The warning comes on the back of a warning from WorkSafe WA director Chris Kirwin, who said it was crucial that everyone on both sea and land knew what to do when there was a cyclone in the area.

“Under workplace safety and health laws, employers must have adequate plans in place and provide adequate training to protect workers in the event of a cyclone,” Kirwin said.

“The Bureau of Meteorology has forecast a slightly lower than average number of tropical cyclones in the waters off the North-West coast this season.

“The average number of cyclones that approach the WA coast each year is 10 to 13, but it only takes one to cause significant damage and suffering, as demonstrated by the tragic circumstances surrounding Cyclone George in 2007.

“It’s extremely important that everyone in a workplace – regardless of their employer - knows exactly what he or she needs to do in the event of a cyclone threat.”

The Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety said employers in control of workplaces should consider the following steps:

  • Develop emergency procedures and plans in conjunction with advice from the Department of Fire and Emergency Services and local regional emergency planning groups where each individual worksite and camp is located.
  • Regularly review training and include the plan when providing onsite inductions.
  • Detail site-safe actions to be undertaken at all levels of cyclone warning phases. For example: remove or restrain loose objects or structures; have step-by-step plans for the safe evacuation of workers; and have clear communication protocols established for reaching all personnel on-site during all cyclone alert warning phases.
  • All transportable buildings on worksites in cyclone sensitive regions are to be adequately secured including accommodation units, dongas and offices.
  • Plan for a safe and orderly evacuation of non-essential personnel prior to worsening conditions e.g. during the blue and yellow cyclone warning phases.
  • All personnel remaining on-site during the cyclone should move to an appropriate designated shelter well in advance of the arrival of the cyclone.
  • Adequate food, drinking water, medical supplies and other essential items are to be available for all isolated workers.
  • During the red alert cyclone warning phase, a reliable emergency backup communication is to be available for contact with external emergency services.
  • Cyclone warnings are monitored via radio, television or the Bureau of Meteorology or Department of Fire and Emergency Services websites. Battery-powered radios are to be available in the event of power interruptions on site.