The role of Evac Chairs in fire evacuation procedures in the workplace

Fire and Safety Centre explains how your building can be made to comply with the law relating to fire evacuation procedures in the workplace.

A full twenty-one years after the arrival of legislation granting disabled people the right to have reasonable access to all parts of a building and it still isn’t universally available. What’s more, nor are fire evacuation procedures in order to help them escape in an emergency. Read on to find out more…

Laws granting disabled people the right to reasonable access throughout a building come of age this year – but even though it’s 21 years since they were enacted, it hasn’t changed all buildings for the better.

Thanks to the technology of lifts and escalators, anyone can move about even the highest of high-rise buildings with relative ease – but all that changes in the event of an emergency evacuation. That’s when the often-disregarded notices in lifts – the ones that say they mustn’t be used in an emergency – come into play.

The reason they can’t be used is that there may be an interruption to the power supply they rely on, which would leave people stranded and in a situation far more dangerous than the reason for the evacuation in the first place.

If this happens, what then of the people with restricted mobility on the upper floors; the ones who can’t get down the stairs, which have suddenly become the only viable way out? As usual, where fire evacuation procedures in the workplace are concerned, the question needs to be answered long before there’s a need to implement the procedure.

The right of someone with restricted mobility to be able to reach every part of a building was initially granted in the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. Responsibility for keeping them safe and getting them out in the event of an emergency evacuation falls to our old friend the ‘responsible person’. The provisions of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 see to that. What they need to provide is a means of moving someone quickly and safely down flights of stairs.

What they need is an Evac Chair.

How does an Evac Chair work?

An Evac Chair is a lightweight but sturdy device which, in appearance, is very much like a lightweight wheelchair. However, it is designed specifically for use on stairways, and is therefore generally equipped with a combination of wheels and ‘skids’ so that it can glide down stairs under the control and guidance of a trained operator.

As a general rule there ought to be one on each floor of a building, but the number required will naturally be dictated by the number of individuals with restricted mobility who might be there at any one time. The chairs don’t take up much room when they’re not in use; they can be folded into a very small space, remaining unobtrusive but nevertheless ready for action at a moment’s notice. The covers and signage for the Evac Chair are also very clear and obvious so that they can be located very easily and quickly in an emergency situation.

Models are available for one and two-person operation. They are designed to carry people with different weights and degrees of mobility, or lack of it. These factors are an important consideration when selecting the right one to make sure your building complies with the law. The variety of designs cover a wide range of potential scenarios as you will see by browsing our extensive range of Evac Chairs.

Evac Chair

Who should use Evac Chairs; and the need for Evac Chair training

Having the appropriate Evac Chairs in a building is only part of the story. The other vital element is that people need to be trained in their safe and effective use, which is why we offer packages including Evac Chair training. For instance, our best seller is the Evac Chair Mk 4 and you will see by clicking on the link that we offer various Evac Chair training options. By browsing our full range of Evac Chairs you will see the training options available on the other models too.

Unless you already have trained people in your organisation, you really should think about purchasing the training packages referred to above. This area is again covered by law, and this time it’s the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (shortened to “PUWER”). These regulations are quite clear: equipment provided for use at work needs to be, in the words of the Regulations, “used only by people who have received adequate information, instruction and training.”

In selecting individuals to attend Evac Chair training courses, it’s important to choose those who are going to be around should the training need to be put into action. It’s of dubious value, for instance, for a field sales rep to take the course, no matter how enthusiastic they are, because they are more than likely to spend most of their time away from base, and therefore unable to help in an emergency.

Fire evacuation procedures in the workplace: Key risk areas

As a responsible person as defined by the law, you’d be well advised to imagine the worst-case scenario in the event of a need to implement fire evacuation procedures in the workplace. Who are most at risk? What is the worst case scenario?

It would be too easy to think only of the regular employees with permanent mobility issues – but what about the others; the ‘temporarily disabled’? What about the young man on crutches because he twisted his knee in a five-a-side football tournament, or the pregnant visitor who’s expecting her baby any day now, or the otherwise fit employee who suffers a heart attack brought on by the emergency itself? All need to be protected and thought about by the responsible person – the installation of Evac Chairs in the workplace goes some way to alleviating these worries.

Still unsure of your responsibilities?

The law can be complex, but Fire and Safety Centre has done what it can to make the rules clear and simple, and you can find a great deal more information about evacuation chair legislation on our advice pages. Please remember, as a building’s responsible person the law expects you to do what it requires. Failure to do so could land you with a substantial fine and even a prison sentence. Give us a call on 01724 281044 so that we can help to ease this burden for you.