Employers must safeguard against terrorism or risk fines, according to new laws

Date: 01/11/2002

Employers of large workplaces need to update their risk management plans to include possible threats of terrorism or risk stiff fines, warns an academic from the University of Western Sydney.

Professor Alan Jeary from the UWS School of Construction, Property and Planning says new occupational health and safety laws state that employers must take reasonable care to identify and minimize any foreseeable hazards, as part of their risk management plans.

"In light of the recent Bali bombings, it is important that employers consider how they can protect workplaces against acts of terrorism such as bombings and hostage situations and other potential extreme event scenarios.

"The new laws are already in effect in all states around Australia but very few employers are aware of their legal responsibilities," Professor Jeary says.

Professor Jeary says risk management plans must also be available to the public and show what an organisation is doing to minimize any conceivable risk to the workplace.

Professor Jeary was part of the international working group of the Institution of Structural Engineers which examined the collapse of the World Trade Centre in New York. In July this year the group handed down a series of safety recommendations for tall buildings.

"In reality, there is not a lot employers can do to improve the structural design of existing buildings, but they must ensure that they have appropriate escape routes for all occupants as part of their risk management plans," Professor Jeary says.

Other common-sense safeguards include preventing large quantities of explosives getting close to a building, especially to structural columns where explosions could cause a collapse of the building.

"Employers must also make sure that all people can get out of a building within the specified fire protection limit which is the time it takes for a building to burn down. All occupants must have access to emergency exits which should be situated around the edges of a building and not in the centre to give occupants a better chance of escaping a fire.

"Construction companies must also have plans to ensure that a building cannot be sabotaged during construction," Professor Jeary says.

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