In the event of a building-wide emergency that requires an evacuation, it is your responsibility to ensure that everybody on site can escape quickly and safely. For people with impaired mobility, this can be difficult to achieve, particularly in multistorey environments where the emergency may have put the lifts off-limits, meaning that everyone must use the stairways.
Evacuation chairs are designed for this exact eventuality. During an evacuation, a person with limited mobility can be strapped safely into the chair and then carried, rolled or slid down corridors or stairs as necessary. But many sites still do not have one (or more) on-site, ready for use. Read on to see if you need to purchase an evacuation chair for your business.
Should you have an evacuation chair?
If your business operates above ground level, the simple answer is ‘yes. Evacuation chairs are not legally mandated under current regulations, but there is a provision for considering ‘anybody who may be especially at risk’ (Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order, 2005) and making every endeavor to include those people in emergency planning.
Whoever is designated as the legally recognized ‘responsible person’ for your site should periodically conduct thorough health and safety and fire safety risk assessments. The responsible person is usually the owner, employer, landlord, or facilities/buildings manager. A key part of the risk assessment is to plan out the evacuation process, including making sure that all routes are marked, kept clear, and accessible. If there are mobility-impaired personnel, or the public has access to upstairs areas, then those assessments should show that there are issues with evacuations. An evacuation chair is an answer.
How many do you need?
Logic would dictate that you need one evacuation chair for every floor and for every person in need of using it. While there are more and more cost-effective evacuation chair options on the market, those costs can still add up, and there can also be issues with storage. This is where you should rely on your risk assessments — while it would be ideal to have chairs available on every floor, if you only have one person with mobility impairments on-site, you can still achieve an effective evacuation plan with just one well-placed chair. In the case of publicly accessible sites, or where the number of people needing the use of a chair might vary, you’ll need multiple chairs.
If you’re in any doubt about whether or not your site needs an evacuation chair, get in touch with an industrial health and safety expert. They’ll be able to answer any questions you might have and, if necessary, they can recommend the right kind of chair for you.
First Mats started life as safety matting specialists, but have since expanded to become a complete industrial and commercial supplies company. The focus of First Mats is to provide safety-focused products that improve the wellbeing of staff through quality approved products, backed up by extensive knowledge. www.firstmats.co.uk