Why Do You Need Evacuation Equipment?

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  • Calendar Icon 28th February 2023
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The average person does not instinctively know what to do in the event of an emergency. It’s important to prepare for any eventuality with quality evacuation equipment and a clear strategy.

If you’ve ever been to an event for work – a conference, for instance – you’ll notice that one of the first announcements is usually safety related. Normally, the speaker begins by announcing where the emergency exits are located, and where you should assemble if you hear an alarm. This is no coincidence. Emergency evacuation strategies are vital for the safety of building users.

Under UK fire safety legislation, having an evacuation strategy or plan is essential. Every person in the building must be accounted for in the plan – not just your staff members, but also any visitors and building users within your premises.

Take a moment to imagine an average day at your workplace or the premises you are responsible for. Is there likely to be anyone in the vicinity who is:

  • Mobility impaired
  • Pregnant
  • Injured
  • A wheelchair user
  • An amputee
  • Elderly
  • Bariatric
  • Or suffering from another medical or mental health condition?

If you answered ‘yes’ to any of the above, how would you get that person to a safe place in the event of an emergency? Especially if the lift is unavailable. Can all those people get up and down multiple flights of stairs unaided?

Keep in mind that not all disabilities are visible. Your evacuation plans should cover the safe access and egress of all building users, regardless of disability. Everybody has the right to safe passage.

All building users who would need assistance in an emergency should have a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP). A PEEP is written and updated regularly by the responsible person and provides relevant information on how to ensure the end user can evacuate safely. PEEPs should be in place for anyone who needs assistance and not just wheelchair users. For example, how would a building user hear the fire alarm in an emergency and know how to exit safely?

Legal Reasons for Evacuation Equipment

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

This Order requires a means of escape that will ensure the safety of building users so far as is reasonably practicable. Means of escape can be classified in a number of ways, but most buildings will opt for evacuation products placed within their staircases to provide a quick and easy descent for users.

This legislation applies to the UK and Wales. Scotland and Northern Ireland have their own legal frameworks, which are very similar.

According to this legislation, you are responsible for fire safety compliance if you are one of the following:

  • An employer
  • Anyone who has control of the premises
  • The owner of the premises

More than one person may be deemed responsible for fire safety compliance. In this case, all responsible persons must work together.

If you are a “responsible” person, you are in charge of anyone who is lawfully present on the premises. In addition, you are responsible for anyone else in the immediate area who would be in danger if there was an emergency.

This legislation applies to most businesses and other non-domestic premises. This includes but is not limited to any venue that is open to the public (gyms, bars, theatres), guesthouses, hotels, bed & breakfasts, and holiday lets. It also applies to shops, offices, coworking spaces, nurseries, some charities, and even outdoor venues (such as zoos, stables, and theme parks).

If you are a “responsible person”, it’s your job to carry out regular risk assessments, provide adequate training for your staff, plan your emergency procedures, and maintain fire safety measures. It’s your responsibility to make provisions for the safe evacuation of all relevant persons on your premises and ensure this is documented within the users PEEPs. This includes the use of proper evacuation equipment where necessary.

Buildings that have not followed the legal requirements are leaving themselves and their users vulnerable, and could be held responsible or in some cases prosecuted or fined.

Whilst this is the main legal requirement, there are other aspects to consider including the below:

Equality Act 2010

Under this legislation, all users must have equal opportunities and the right to safe passage on the premises.

Employers must adjust workplaces if they are likely to disadvantage a mobility impaired person (in comparison to someone who is able-bodied). Neglecting to make these changes could be seen as discrimination.

It would be seen to be discriminatory if the mobility impaired individuals within your building were not given the right to safe passage. This could include not providing disabled access toilets, or doorways and openings not having sufficient space.

Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974

This Act provides the structure and authority for the encouragement, regulation and enforcement of workplace health, safety and welfare within the United Kingdom.

While it may be tempting to think that an emergency is unlikely to happen on your premises, consider that legal action would financially strain your business. Legal costs are not insurable. Investing in evacuation equipment is a minor cost in comparison to legal fees.

Moral Reasons For Evacuation Equipment

Your business has a moral responsibility to keep everybody safe.

Without correct procedures and access to safe working evacuation equipment, some building users may be unable to exit the building safely. These users would be forced to make use of your fire refuge areas until safe passage can be granted.

By having the right evacuation equipment on site, your business is ensuring that disabled individuals have equal access to safety and can evacuate a building with dignity and independence – just like everyone else.

Social Reasons For Evacuation Equipment

There are plenty of moral reasons to use evacuation equipment on your premises. But there’s a plethora of social reasons too.

As an employer, you’re not just responsible for the physical wellbeing of your staff. You have a part to play in maintaining their mental wellbeing too. All building users should feel safe when entering your premises and using the facilities onsite. This feeling of safety starts the moment they enter the building and helps to build a feeling of reassurance. If your building users feel safe and valued you will be working towards increasing your team’s safety perception and a more complete safety culture. Your building users will recognise that well maintained and easily accessible evacuation equipment provides a safety feature for everybody.

By properly preparing for an emergency, you also reduce the mental and physical stress on those who have mobility impairments or who are responsible for evacuating others. Plus, the rest of your employees can have increased confidence in their own ability to evacuate themselves safely.

Employee wellbeing should be at the forefront of your evacuation preparations. Inclusivity is equally important. You shouldn’t just make plans for your able-bodied staff – every employee is equally important, and your evacuation plans need to reflect this.

By providing the correct evacuation equipment, you show your commitment to accommodating the needs of all staff – regardless of how diverse their needs might be. In addition, when evacuation equipment is readily available this helps to facilitate a smooth and efficient evacuation process, which can improve teamwork and cooperation among staff.

Evacuation equipment can help create a more inclusive and supportive working environment – where all staff, regardless of their abilities, feel valued and respected.

Clearly, proper preparation for emergencies results in a multitude of benefits to your company’s internal social reputation. But there are many reasons that it would benefit your external business reputation too.

When your workplace is thoroughly prepared for an emergency, this can help to minimise the potential impact on your business, your employees, and the wider community.

If you are underprepared for an emergency and the worst happens, your stakeholders (shareholders, clients, suppliers) could be affected by negative publicity. Your ‘corporate image’ may suffer, damaging future business relations and profits.

On the other hand, being well-prepared for potential emergencies can enhance the reputation of your company, as well as your relationship with your local community and other organisations. Prioritising your corporate social responsibility demonstrates your commitment to the wellbeing and safety of all individuals entering your premises.

Conclusion

There are a multitude of reasons to invest in evacuation equipment – legal, moral, and social.

While there is a lot of legislation that needs to be adhered to, this doesn’t have to be a daunting or complicated task.

The team at Evacu8 are available to help you with each step of the process. We can carry out full assessments and help you determine which equipment is best for your premises. With dozens of products to choose from, we’re confident we have something to suit every budget and end user. Once you’ve chosen your products, we will walk you through the proper use of each one – empowering you to use your equipment with confidence, or even teach others to use it if you would like to. And our service doesn’t end there – we offer regular maintenance contracts, so you can keep your evacuation equipment in perfect working order.

We’d love to help you with all your evacuation needs – contact us today.

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