Evacuation Chair Legislation

As a ‘responsible person,’ it is your duty to ensure everyone on your premises, both employees and visitors, are able to safely exit the property in the event of a fire. Some people that are commonly overlooked are those with disabilities and mobility issues. In this guide, we break down the key duties you have as a responsible person toward employees and visitors who have mobility issues and how an evacuation chair may be the solution. 

  • Key Duties of a Responsible Person
  • Who is a Person With a Disability or Mobility Issues?
  • What Do Fire Regulations and Legislation Say?
  • Implementing Evacuation Chairs 
  • Do’s and Don’ts of Fire Evacuation Chairs 
  • Invest in the Safety of All Your Employees With Evac Chairs

Key Duties of a Responsible Person 

You are a responsible person if you are the employer, owner, landlord, occupier, or property managing staff such as Facilities Managers or Building Managers. As a responsible person, you have numerous duties surrounding all aspects of fire safety. These include: 

  • Carrying out risk assessments 
  • Accounting for all relevant people at risk 
  • Removing and preventing the risk of fire 
  • Ensuring Fire Safety Equipment is up to standard 
  • Assuring staff have the appropriate Fire Safety Training 
  • Preparing an Emergency Plan 
  • Informing all staff of any emergency plans and fire safety information, including what their roles are in the event of a fire

As listed above, one of the key duties is to “Account for all relevant people at risk”. This includes considering the requirements of employees and visitors who may have a disability or mobility issues.

Who is a Person With a Disability or Mobility Issues?

People with disabilities or mobility issues may be overlooked when it comes to creating an emergency evacuation plan. A ‘person with a disability or mobility issue’ doesn’t necessarily just include people with physically impaired mobility. The definition can also include people with heart disease, asthma, or a temporary condition such as a broken leg. 

People with heart disease or asthma may have difficulties evacuating a building during a fire. This is where an evacuation chair may be helpful, as it can allow for the quick and safe evacuation of vulnerable people and reduce stress. But are you required by law to make accommodations for vulnerable people? 

What Do Fire Regulations and Legislation Say?

Legislation doesn’t directly instruct a company or organisation to purchase and install evacuation chairs and train employees in their use. However, the requirements of certain legislation point to them being the only possible choice for effective compliance with that legislation.

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 gives a ‘responsible person’ a duty in law to provide a means of evacuation for people who are less mobile. For example, this could mean people who are:

  • A wheelchair user
  • Have a temporary condition such as a broken leg
  • Have suffered a heart attack
  • Are pregnant

Article 4 (1)(b) of the order explains the responsibility in more detail, with Article 4 (1)(c) explaining that the means of escape must be available for use safely and effectively by anyone in the building.

The order requires that everyone should know what to do in the event of a fire. It also means that a ‘PEEP’, or Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan, should be developed for every individual who might have special needs when it comes to evacuation from the building.

Other Safety Legislation To Be Aware Of

Disability Discrimination Act 1995 and Equality Act 2010

Although neither the Disability Discrimination Act 1995 nor the Equality Act 2010 have anything to do directly with the provision of evac chairs, such provision might be seen as a necessary consequence of them. 

Disability legislation means it is illegal to limit access to parts of your premises based on potential difficulties of employees or visitors to reach them. Therefore, the onus falls on the owner or occupier to facilitate access and egress to and from all parts of the building. It is also worth remembering that if anyone requires the assistance of a stair lift to reach the upper floors, they are very likely to need the use of an evac chair to leave in the event of an emergency.

A helpful Government guide Means of Escape for Disabled People looks at these points in comprehensive detail.

BS 9999:2017

This code of practice provides guidance on the measures needed for a high standard of fire safety for all employees. 

Provisional and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER)

This regulation states all equipment should be maintained and only be used by staff that have the appropriate training

Health and Safety at Work Act 1974

It is the responsibility of employers to ensure the health and safety of all employees in the workplace.

Implementing Fire Evacuation Chairs

Those considering avoiding the purchase of an evac chair by restricting access to parts of a building to disabled people put themselves at risk of breaching disability legislation, so it is advised you have a fire evacuation chair on your premises. 

By conducting a risk assessment, you will be able to determine who will need an evacuation chair and how many evac chairs will be required on your property. Each of these people will also need a PEEP as they will need assistance in evacuating the building. However, this is not limited to the employees of a property. You should also consider any regular visitors who may also need assistance in the event of a fire. 

Do’s and Don’ts of Fire Evacuation Chairs 

Do’s of Evacuation Chairs 

Train Staff

Only staff who are trained in operating evacuation chairs should be using them. As the responsible person, you are required to provide the appropriate training to all staff, whether that be basic fire safety awareness or training specifically for the operation of evacuation chairs. Furthermore, when the decision has been taken to provide at least one evac chair, Article 21 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 gives a duty to instruct staff in its safe use.

Regular Maintenance

All fire safety equipment should be maintained as per PUWER. This includes inspecting all evacuation chairs are in working order and any other fire safety equipment on the property. 

Refuge areas

It is also advisable to arrange for ‘refuge areas’ in which people with impaired mobility can remain safe whilst evacuation is arranged – which is the responsibility of the ‘responsible person’, and not of the Fire and Rescue Services.

A refuge area needs to be:

  • an enclosed area of fire-resisting construction
  • capable of 30 minutes fire resistance
  • large enough for a wheelchair to manoeuvre
  • served by a safe exit route

These areas also represent a sensible place in which to store an evac chair, since that’s where it is likely to be required.

Don’ts of Fire Evac Chairs

The Carry-Down Method

It is not recommended that you use the carry-down method when evacuating. This means carrying a wheelchair user down stairs whilst still in their wheelchair. This puts multiple people at risk of injury and is not an appropriate fire safety measure. 

Rush Evacuation 

It is important to follow the steps of your evacuation plan and carefully transport individuals into the evacuation chair. Panicking will only increase the risk of injuries and accidents. With the appropriate training, responsible personnel who are in charge of using evac chairs will be able to handle a fire emergency with precision and care. 

Invest in the Safety of All Your Employees With Evac Chairs 

As a responsible person, it is your duty to ensure that all employees have a means of escape during a fire emergency. This includes anyone who may have a disability or mobility impairment. Find the right evac chair for your premises to improve the protection of your employees and visitors during an emergency.  

Evacuation Chairs FAQs

Is it a legal requirement to have an evacuation chair? 

As per the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, it is the duty of the responsible person to provide a means of escape for all employees and visitors who use their building. For some people, an evacuation chair is the only viable means of escape, so it is best to have evac chairs on your property to accommodate these people. You can work out the exact number of evacuation chairs you need on your property when you conduct your fire risk assessment. 

Do you need training to use an evacuation chair?

It is required that anyone who will use an evacuation chair should be trained to do so. At Fire and Safety Centre, we offer Evac Chair Training to ensure your staff are well-equipped during an emergency situation. 

Where should an evac chair be placed?

This varies depending on the property. However, common places to install an evacuation chair are near stairwells, accessible areas, evacuation routes, and specific locations, depending on who requires an evacuation chair. Wherever you place your evac chair, you should ensure it is clearly visible and can be easily accessed in the event of an emergency.