The Equality Act made it the responsibility of all businesses to ensure that access is available to everyone, and there is no discrimination.
Provisions must be made for the safe evacuation of all persons in an emergency. In some cases, those that are physically impaired can be assisted by others. However, in most emergency situations this is not suitable or safe. Therefore, a solution comes in the form of refuge areas. Disabled refuge areas are areas specifically designated for disabled people to await further assistance. Refuge areas are usually fitted with call systems. These consist of two-way intercoms allowing disabled people to communicate with ground staff in an emergency.
However, in multi-storey buildings the provision of an evacuation lift should be considered to allow disabled people quicker evacuation in the event of a fire. An evacuation lift differs from a regular lift, in that additional safety measures have been taken to secure its use in an emergency. These measures include a provision of a secondary power supply and the control system is able to be controlled by the fire authorities. Importantly, the evacuation lift should never be used for transporting goods, as in an emergency lives may be put at risk if goods have to be unloaded.
Where Should the Location of Refuge Areas Be?
There should be a refuge area at specific locations on each floor of the building (like a fire exit). You will commonly find disabled refuge areas in hotels, offices, hospitals, large residential buildings, roof terraces and multi-storey car parks. The minimum size of the refuge area is 900mm x 1400mm allowing sufficient space for a wheelchair to manoeuvre.
In addition, as the areas are for wheelchair users, the opening pressure for doors into the refuges should not exceed 20 Newtons when the door opens against the direction of travel, and 30 Newtons when opening with direction of travel. Signage towards the area needs to be clear and the refuge should have a perched seat available for use.
Moreover, whilst it is not a legal requirement, a member of staff should remain with the disabled person. This is for reassurance and company whilst waiting for further assistance.
Similar to disabled toilet alarm systems, refuge systems are quick to install and are low-impact. This keeps disruption to your daily business to a minimum. Advanced systems can also be fitted with brushed steel plates that are tamper and water proof.
Do you need more information? Visit our disabled refuge page, or give us a call on 0845 402 3045.