Your Responsibilities for the Provision of Evacuation Devices
The safety and well-being of employees or visitors within an establishment is paramount. It is for this reason that there is a wealth of government legislation outlining the responsibilities which fall on the employer, service provider or building owner when it comes to this issue. These include all aspects of health and safety, from environmental conditions to emergency procedures. One aspect of the legislation which can sometimes be confusing concerns the evacuation of individuals with specialist needs.
The installation of evacuation devices cannot be enforced by any particular regulation but it can be necessary to the safeguarding of employees or service users. Paraphrasing the fire safety order of 2005, it says that if an employer does not make every effort to protect their disabled employees or service users, this could be seen as discrimination. Therefore, as evacuation devices are included in safeguarding of disabled employees, they are required in order to avoid a potentially discriminatory situation. Furthermore, the same order dictates that the ‘responsible person’ is required to offer a means of evacuation for individuals who have mobility issues or sensory impairments.
Evacuation devices describe any device which facilitates the movement of an individual from inside to outside of the building. Stairs can often pose a difficulty for those with mobility issues and therefore devices such as evacuation chairs or sledges can prove vital in exiting the building. Other products should also be considered, including evacuation straps, boards, stretchers and blankets. It is also important to note that some buildings will be below ground and individuals will need to climb stairs in order to escape. With this in mind, there are evacuation chairs available which can facilitate this.
Another responsibility of the employer/owner is to devise a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan or PEEP. This should be created for every person who may need assistance when evacuating the building. The plan should include information on meeting points, equipment and the overall evacuating process. Depending on the specific circumstances, research may have to be carried out prior to creating the PEEP and if necessary, staff may have to be trained in proper protocol. For example, staff should be taught the correct way to use an evacuation chair.
Refuge areas are selected areas within the building in which disabled individuals can wait for evacuation. The responsible person should ensure that refuge areas meet a range of specific requirements. They have to be an enclosed area which can withstand fire for up to 30 minutes. Refuge areas also have to be large enough to accommodate a wheelchair and close to a fire exit. This may also be the best place to store any evacuation equipment in order to speed up the overall process.
Up to now we have only discussed the evacuation of disabled individuals but other people should also be considered. The Fire Safety Order (2005) talks about providing adequate evacuation for people with mobility problems and this can include a variety of different types of individual. Other than disabled people, mobility problems can be caused by temporary conditions such as broken limbs. Factors such as pregnancy, heart and brain disorders can also effect movement and all of these should take into consideration.
If you have any questions or worries about your responsibilities in accordance with the Fire Safety Act of 2005, there are many resources out there that can help. There are also a wide range of specialist organisations who can provide information on those with specialist needs and their specific requirements.