Planning for Emergencies at Remote Project Sites

By Elizabeth Saka-Kosoko


Planning for Emergencies at Remote Project Sites

Safety professionals need to review their emergency plans and create contingencies for job sites in remote, rural areas.

Heavy industry and inherently hazardous work often happens in locations far from conventional emergency response, including construction, mining, oil and gas drilling, and even some scientific and technical experimental ventures.

Even so, project managers, site superintendents, planners, and health and safety professionals are still charged with overseeing and protecting workers in remote locations. This could include residential construction crews working on a cabin, a mining company working on a new site, an oil well drilling crew working in a remote area, loggers developing a new cut, a road construction crew establishing access to a new mine, construction or any other industry that is located far away from rapid response to emergencies.

How well an organization plans for possible emergencies in remote locations can be the dividing line between tragedy and success. It could mean the difference between whether an employee’s life is lost or saved, or if an operation and capital infrastructure is lost due to an incident.

The stakes couldn’t be higher, so site managers need to know the types of hazards they should plan for, how to conduct risk assessments, how rural emergency services operate, and how to work with those agencies to best plan for emergencies.


Gate to access a remote project site. Site is another hour down this road, this gate is two hours from the nearest town, 30 minutes from a fire department.

Gate to access a remote project site. Site is another hour down this road, this gate is two hours from the nearest town, 30 minutes from a fire department.

Remote industry sites generally present all the same hazards as those located in an urban area—with potentially some additional hazards unique to rural areas.

Common industrial injuries include slips, trips and falls; objects in eyes; burns; dropped objects; and struck by incidents. Vehicle crashes, especially run-off-road and rollover crashes, can also occur. These injuries can become more serious if treatment is distant.

Fires and explosions are possible, and a fire occurring at a remote industrial site could spread into the surrounding land, potentially turning a small, localized fire into a large wildfire.

Extractive industries such as oil and gas drilling, mining and tunneling can often present hazards that require specialized skills to mitigate complex and potentially extremely dangerous incidents. Certain industries also create some hazards of a more technical nature, such as confined spaces or elevated platforms, where local resources may be insufficient to handle the incident.

In addition to job site-specific hazards, medical emergencies remain an ever-present risk. As some employees in these industries have less healthy lifestyles, this risk likely compounds those existing hazards.

Rural Emergency Response Capabilities

The services provided by rural fire and emergency medical services (EMS) agencies in the are different from those in an urban area. An important distinction is that rural agencies are often staffed by individuals who volunteer their time to serve as opposed to many urban agencies that employ full-time staff.

Volunteer fire and EMS agencies typically have much smaller budgets and, correspondingly, often have less equipment and capability than their urban counterparts. While all agencies focus their training and capabilities to match their typical call load, rural call loads are usually much smaller (fewer than a few hundred a year) and are often a mix of medical calls, vehicle crashes and the occasional fire.

Alternatively, fires where the structure is past saving are typically left to burn out, so firefighters shift their attention to containment. Rural fire departments often lack specialized training, equipment and capabilities to manage technical rescue incidents, such as confined space rescues, trench collapses or rope access

Rural response to critical patients often involves the use of aeromedical evacuation via helicopter air ambulance services to reduce transportation time. While the use of a helicopter for patient transport is a benefit to patient care, there are some significant limitations. Medical helicopters are typically visual flight only. While they can often fly at night, they are limited by bad weather conditions either at the incident scene or at any point along their journey. Helicopters often have limits on the height and weights of the patient(s) they transport, and their range also varies based on air temperature and altitude. Helicopters also require flat, unobstructed landing areas to land and take off, the size of which can vary based on the responding aircraft.

Planning for Incidents at a Remote Worker Site

Conducting a detailed analysis of potential incidents (see “Potential incidents” sidebar below) is a critical first step in developing an effective emergency response plan for a project site. Ultimately, this analysis will generate a risk register.

To begin, first list all the potential incidents that may occur—no matter how far-fetched—and assign a reasonable estimate of the potential of that incident occurring. Then, independent of that event’s likelihood, determine the consequence. For any given event, the probability and consequence can be multiplied to create a quantitative risk estimate. Risks with the highest probabilities should be planned for and addressed first, followed by those with the highest consequence and moderate risk pairing.

Once you have an idea of how incidents would reasonably be managed, contact the local fire department and EMS agencies to let them know about your project and to inquire about their capabilities. Be clear with what the potential incidents on your project site include and detail the nature of their operation

The training required for a self-sufficient operation should match the hazards expected. Since medical care in rural areas is distant, and may be hours or more from arriving, it is ideal to have a staff member trained as an EMT and several others qualified in Tactical Emergency Combat Care

From a fire suppression perspective, training all crew members to use fire extinguishers is a baseline. Additional training on simple fire attack using water trucks and portable pumps can help ensure a site can contain small fires and prevent spread.

Training should include how to mitigate special hazards on-site, such as confined spaces or hazardous materials. Survival training and learning how to mitigate environmental risks is also a good idea in case of foul weather or supplies to the site are otherwise cut off. Necessary equipment and personnel training should match the hazards expected and should be planned in detail to try and maximize overlap with other construction tasks and equipment.

Resources & Guidance

Working at a remote location presents unique hazards and complications. Unfortunately, few good resources exist for how to plan for remote work, and they often understate the associated risks or need for self-reliance.

Consider consulting other project staff who have worked on similar remote projects. Ask how they managed incidents and for any lessons learned. Above all, be proactive and reach out to the local fire and EMS agencies before there’s an emergency.

RCL Safety Centre, the organizers of Emergency Response Seminar is proud to submit our Corporate Sponsor Proposal to yourselves. The purpose of this is to seek your partnership thru sponsorship laudable initiative.  This is to help ensure a smooth seminar and imbibe the needed knowledge of First Responders, First Aid, CPR and AED in workplaces, public places and schools.

For Companies and Public Places, this will imbibe this Lifesaving Skill to employees, reduce Workplace Accidents, CPR Skills Can Be Used Anywhere, create a More Positive Working Environment, make employees feel valued.

For Equipment Manufacturers, this creates a platform to showcase your life saving equipment, directly network with end-users and develop sales leads

For Service Providers, this gives a platform to showcase your services thru simulations and role plays etc.

This event is supported by NEMA and will continue annually in different regions/states. This will also be followed by our unique monthly scheduled first responders/CPR trainings.

For Registration enquiries on sponsorship and others, pls contact:

Elizabeth Saka-Kosoko

Email: sales@safetycentre.ng

Tel: +234 8099700070

Web: www.emergencyresponse.org.ng

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