Ensuring safe evacuation of mobility-impaired

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Ensuring safe evacuation of mobility-impaired

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It’s a legal requirement for landlords and business owners to provide a means of escape for everybody using their buildings. All evacuation aids must be in a designated refuge point. Undoubtedly, evacuation chairs are proven to be the most efficient and user-friendly as they enable the operator and passenger to safely exit the building quickly and efficiently.

Risks to buildings are continually evolving and emergency planning needs to evolve with them. All buildings must have a responsible person who takes care of emergency planning and evacuation.  This can be business owners, landlords, site managers or health and safety professionals.

This ‘responsible person’ must ensure their buildings are well-prepared for evacuating everyone including the elderly and mobility-impaired.

The ‘responsible person’ will need to consider:
• Fire detection and warning systems
• Emergency routes and exits
• Fire-fighting equipment
• The removal or safe storage of dangerous substances
• An emergency fire evacuation plan
• The needs of vulnerable people
• Providing information to employees and other people on the premises
• Staff fire safety training
• Emergency evacuation equipment
• The quality and fire resistance of building fabric such as fire doors
• The servicing and maintenance of all relevant fire protection, detection, sprinkler, alarm and evacuation systems.

This also includes the identification of people at risk such as those with mobility issues or disabilities and the provision of specific training to help these people in any type of emergency evacuation.

This person-centred approach centres on the developing Personal Emergency Evacuation Plans -  known as a ‘PEEP’ - to provide people, who cannot get themselves out of a building unaided during an emergency, with the necessary information to be able to manage their escape from the building.

But it is not just for people with physical disabilities. PEEPs are for anyone who will need help during an evacuation including children, the elderly or frail, anyone with a temporary condition or people who may not be able to use stairs, hear the fire alarm or move quickly which might hinder their escape.

Well thought-through PEEPs are important in making buildings safe for everybody and demonstrate commitment to improving accessibility.

During the pre-planning stage, difficult questions need to be answered to ensure everyone can evacuate a building safely during an emergency. Questions your responsible person must adhere to in pre-planning are:

• Do we have an emergency evacuation plan?
• Have we considered everyone in our PEEP?
• Do we have the correct evacuation equipment which can ensure everyone’s safety?
• Do we have a trained, incident response team?
• Do we have regular evacuation drills to check our procedures?

It’s an employer’s responsibility to ensure safe evacuation

UK employers are subject to the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act and therefore have what’s termed a ‘general duty’ to provide a workplace that is free from recognised and serious hazards.

Put simply, it is not enough to ensure that your building is accessible.  As per the Equality Act 2010, employers need to take reasonable steps to adjust the workplace to make it accessible for all . 

This goes beyond merely ensuring that people can get into and move safely around the workplace but considers the structure and design of the building.

In law, under the Fire Precautions (Workplace) Regulations 1997, it is the responsibility of the ‘Responsible Person’ – which is usually the person who owns or controls the business – to ensure all workers can be safely evacuated in an emergency . 

The structural provision of escape – eg fire stairs or escapes - are clearly inappropriate for people with mobility impairments.  Evacuation equipment such as evacuation chairs along with the necessary training is therefore, vital. 

While not all situations may be life-threatening, certain situations can be distressing for someone unable to use the stairs.  Without essential equipment and training, the risk of personal injury can be high.

Given the changes in the workforce profile, it is safe to conclude that safety measures during an evacuation must be considered a top priority by employers across the globe. Although these and, other age-related conditions can affect one’s physical capabilities in terms of mobility, it should not pose as a barrier to employment on health and safety grounds.

Evacuation chairs offer a simple and effective solution to ensure a safe exit from work for an increasingly diverse workforce as well as those in medical and care environments.

In addition to evacuation chairs, many types of evacuation products may be required such as slide sheets, rescue mats or stretchers to meet different requirements. This means that specially-trained staff need to be in place. Specialist training is something that Evac+Chair provides.

Evac+Chair offers advice that extends beyond the provision of stairway descent equipment to include initial site surveys, staff consultation and equipment training. This is vital when ensuring the safe evacuation of mobility-impaired people in an emergency.

Where lifts shouldn’t be used, light-weight, easy to use Evac+Chairs offer an effective stairway descent to ensure a safe exit from tall buildings in any emergency. The Evac+Chair folds away and is wall-mounted thereby complying with current health and safety and fire regulations.

By providing this information and all the right equipment, Evac+Chair International continues to emphasise the importance of emergency evacuation training to ensure workplaces and buildings of all kinds can be evacuated efficiently and effectively in any emergency.

For more information -  or for a free site evaluation to assess your evacuation needs -  please visit: www.evacchair.co.uk.

Published June 2018

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