It is estimated that there are just under 14 million people of working age in the UK who have some kind of physical disability, and many of these may need help to evacuate their working premises quickly in an emergency. The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order from 2005 or RRO for short, states that the ‘responsible person’ at any working premises must consider ‘anybody who may be especially at risk’ and act to protect them as best they can in case of a fire emergency’. With this in mind, although there is no specific legal requirement for businesses to keep an evacuation chair, it might be smart to invest in one.
Who is the ‘responsible person’?
The responsible person on the premises will be the landlord, owner, employer, occupier or senior managers.
The responsible person is legally required to carry out risk assessments, set up and maintain fire safety measures, plan measures for emergencies, inform staff of any risks identified and carry out staff training.
If you employ someone with a mobility issue or your business has many customers/clients visiting, you may require an evacuation chair to ensure their safety in case of an emergency.
Evacuation chairs are designed to be light and easy to manoeuvre. On level ground they work just like normal wheelchairs but on stairs they have tracks that are deployed to create a bridge and friction between the chair and stairs.
When acquiring an evacuation chair for your building you may need to buy more than one so there is one readily available wherever needed. They need to be stationed close to staircases and have regular maintenance checks. The chairs should be checked annually to make sure they are in working condition and it is recommended to change the rubber tracks every five years as they may wear and perish over time. Chairs that are not in good condition can pose an increased risk to the user and the operator of the chair.
When carrying out your fire assessments you need to register any risk possibilities and implement any changes to your safety evacuation plans and upgrades in training. Evacuation chairs can be quite expensive so a risk assessment is important to identify the most dangerous spots so chairs can be positioned in the ideal locations.
Evacuation chair training
Evacuation chair training is crucial so that people can use them correctly and quickly even in high-stress situations. Your personnel need to know how to set up the evacuation chair, the chair’s balance points and how to check if the person sitting in the chair is comfortable and safely strapped in. They need to hold the chair’s proper position for going down the stairs, as well. That is why it is best to have a professional carry a training session for a select few and then continue implementing this knowledge into your regular fire drills. This way people will be trained and prepared in the case of an emergency.