Are Evacuation Chairs A Legal Requirement?
Evacuation chairs are specialised compact mobility chairs that allow people with impaired movement to leave a building in the event of an emergency. This can include wheelchair using personnel all the way through to injured occupants, the elderly or pregnant women.
Since The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 was introduced, the ‘responsible person’ within a business has a duty in law to provide a means of evacuation for people who are less mobile. This is outlined in section 4.1(c) in that ‘measures for securing that, at all material times, the means of escape can be safely and effectively used’.
Whilst evacuation chairs themselves are not required by law, they do provide those in need the easiest way to leave the upper floors of a building and a simple means of satisfying legislation and risk assessment.
Evacuation chairs are usually installed near fire exit stairs. When the signal to evacuate is given, a trained member of staff will help the person with limited mobility to transfer to the chair. It is then a simple matter for the helper and impaired person to safely evacuate the building. The chairs have special tracks that allow them to be smoothly lowered down stairs at a fixed rate of decent. At the bottom of the stair the chair resumes its travel on the wheels. The best chairs require only one helper to operate them, but some require two – be aware of this if you are considering purchasing evacuation chairs.
However, there are a few things that businesses need to be aware of before they decide whether or not to install evacuation chairs.
As will be outlined in your fire risk assessment and in section 21 of the Regulatory Reform Order, the installation of an evacuation chair requires the correct training of staff in their use. The chairs will also need a basic annual service.
Some businesses consider cutting costs and avoiding purchasing an evacuation chair by restricting access to parts of their building to disabled people. However, this could breach both the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and the Equality Act 2010 which outline that it is illegal to limit access to parts of your premises based on potential difficulties for employees to reach them.
In conclusion, although evacuation chairs are not required by law, they are the easiest and most comprehensive way for your business to satisfy legislation – in addition to assuring the safety and wellbeing of any mobility impaired staff or visitors to your premises.