Safe and Accessible: Ensuring an inclusive fire safety plan in the workplace

For people with mobile impairments, emergency situations can be very dangerous, as was clear in the Grenfell Tower tragedy. And yet a new study has found that in the workplace, there remains a lack of awareness and preparation strategy in place to form an inclusive fire safety strategy.

The research, by West Midlands-based emergency evacuation chair manufacturer Evac+Chair International has revealed the challenges organisations face and lack of preparedness when it comes to evacuation procedures for those with access barriers.

It found a quarter of business leaders are not aware of how many of their employees have access needs.  And when it comes to fire safety:

  • 29% of organisations have only “some” or “very little” understanding of their obligations when it comes to safe evacuations
  • 10% of businesses are either not prepared or unsure if they are fully prepared to evacuate mobility-impaired members of staff.
  • More than two-thirds (68%) said they think fire safety legislation does not do enough to protect people with mobility issues
  •  82% of organisations surveyed called on the Government to provide more clarity on their responsibilities surrounding fire safety.

Says Jamie Allam, CEO Amthal Fire & Security: “In an emergency situation, time is of the essence. A quick and efficient evacuation can mean the difference between life and death. For able-bodied individuals, evacuation procedures are usually fairly straightforward. However, for mobility-impaired employees and those with access barriers, it can be much more of a challenge to evacuate quickly and safely.  Here, communication and planning are key, to create a shared understanding of the principle that everybody needs to be able to evacuate.”

What Employers Can Do to Ensure the Safety of Mobile-Impaired Workers
Employers have a responsibility to ensure the safety of all workers, including those with mobility impairments.  Safety plans must also accommodate employees with temporary mobility challenges, such as pregnancy or a broken leg.

Here are some steps employers can take to ensure that everyone is protected in the event of an emergency:

  1.  Develop and implement emergency evacuation procedures that inclusively take into account the needs of all workers. This may include the use of evacuation chairs, visual alarms, and other accommodations
  2. Train and communicate to all employees, including mobility-impaired workers, on emergency evacuation procedures. Make sure that everyone knows what to do in the event of an emergency.
  3.  Conduct regular emergency evacuation drills to ensure that all employees, are familiar with the procedures.
  4. Designate specific individuals to assist workers who need support in the event of an emergency. This may include trained volunteers or employees with specific roles and responsibilities.
  5. Provide clear communication channels for disabled workers to report any concerns or issues related to emergency evacuation procedures.
  6. Ensure regular risk assessments of your emergency procedures to ensure they can accommodate the requirements of all employees.

By taking these steps, employers can help ensure an inclusive strategy to ensure all employees can evacuate quickly and safely in the event of an emergency.

Jamie concludes: “The report has suggested that cost of equipment and a lack of information are the biggest challenges for development suitable fire safety procedures. This is where it is essential for employees and their Responsible Persons to work with a fire safety specialist, that can regularly conduct risk assessments and continue to maintain inclusive fire safety planning and emergency exit strategies for all employees, cost effectively and with minimal disruption to everyday operations.  Often small details can make all the difference.”

The study is calling for Government requirements and legal guidance to ensure more businesses offer a clear and inclusive approach to fire safety.