People with disabilities are being put at risk by the lack of clarity over where responsibility lies for escaping from a building in an emergency, safety experts and evacuation specialists have warned.
Evac+Chair International is urging lawmakers to close the legislative gap to encourage more accountability and transparency on the evacuation equipment needed, in order to save lives.
At the same time, it is looking to educate businesses, building managers and those responsible for fire safety on their safety-related duty in emergency situations.
The call has been launched in the wake of discussion around the topic during Business Safety Week 2021, Disability Awareness Day 2021 and Fire Door Safety Week 2021 – all of which raise awareness on safety in the workplace and those living with disabilities or mobility impairments.
Currently, fire safety regulations do not specify evacuation systems or equipment for people with disabilities or temporary mobility issues, as a legal requirement in buildings. And while there is a legal responsibility for the person responsible for fire safety to have in place a risk assessment and measures to support the safe evacuation of people from the building, this does not state what should be in place to support people with disabilities.
Now, Birmingham-based Evac+Chair International wants a rethink of the law and is calling on businesses to make sure they have the right risk assessments and measures in place to keep everyone safe in an emergency situation.
Gerard Wallace, Managing Director of Evac+Chair International, said: “There is great confusion and a legislative gap and lack of clarity around what business owners and building managers responsible for fire safety need to have in place to properly protect staff, visitors and the public.”
Under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, businesses must undertake assessments to identify injury and illness risk, taking action to eliminate, or control that risk. For those with more than five employees, results should be recorded, while considering groups particularly at risk such as older, younger, pregnant or disabled employees.
Gerard Wallace added: “The emphasis has always been on giving disabled people access into buildings, but little thought and planning is paid on how to support people to get out in an emergency.
Evac+Chair International is joining forces with other businesses, national advocacy groups and charities to highlight the issue with the Government.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) and BAFE have already shown their support for the call.