Do You Need to Provide an Evacuation Chair According to the Law?

 In Blog

Here at Evacuscape, we believe an evacuation chair plays a vital role in fire safety in the workplace. Our stair chairs are here to help people out, enabling a swift and safe descent when your evacuation requires employees to navigate the stairs.

For this reason, thoughtful employers have a responsibility to ensure there’s an evacuation stair chair for anyone who may need help taking the stairs in an emergency. But is it your legal duty to ensure a stair chair is available for people with reduced mobility?

In this post, we’ll investigate some of the laws that cover what your duties are as an employer, and why you want to add an evacuation chair to your emergency plans.

What Do Labour Laws Say in Canada?

Safety and accessibility legislation vary depending on where you call home.

Although we provide escape chairs to businesses all over North America, the UK, and Europe, the Evacuscape headquarters can be found in Toronto, Canada, so we’re going to focus on Canadian laws. Here, the most relevant piece of legislation can be found in the Canada Labour Code.

Section 125 of the Canada Labour Code reads as follows:

Every employer shall, in respect of every work place controlled by the employer and, in respect of every work activity carried out by an employee in a work place that is not controlled by the employer, to the extent that the employer controls the activity,

  • (o)comply with prescribed standards relating to fire safety and emergency measures;
  • (p)ensure, in the prescribed manner, that employees have safe entry to, exit from and occupancy of the work place

For those of us without a law degree, what does this mean in plain English?

While the law does not explicitly say an employer needs to have evacuation chairs on the premises, it does indicate employers must provide a safe route of evacuation in the event of an emergency.

Here at Evacuscape, we argue evacuation without a stair chair may be impossible. Here’s why:

In emergencies, most elevators and escalators switch off, which leaves the stairs as the only way to exit a multi-storied building. The stairs may be a safe exit route for some non-disabled employees and visitors, but for people with reduced mobility, they’re a hazardous obstacle.

An evacuation chair is a device designed to overcome this obstacle by assisting the safe descent down the stairs. By storing one at each of your stairwells, a senior or person with reduced mobility has the tools they need to make a swift and safe exit.

What Does Canada’s Emergency Preparedness Guide Say?

If you still need further proof as to why stair chairs are necessary, let’s take a look at Get Prepared, the government’s Emergency Preparedness Guide for People with Disabilities and Special Needs.

If you look at the section for people with reduced mobility, it states every emergency plan should include evacuation chairs.

The government recommends stair chairs to be stored on the same floor as the individual with special needs works to facilitate a quick and easy evacuation. More still, the person with the disability should not be involved in the selection of the evacuation chair.

That leaves the responsibility up to you, the employer.

What Does Anti-Discrimination Legislation Say?

Finally, we look to human rights laws to see how they weigh in on the subject.

Here in Ontario, we look to the Ontario Human Rights Commission for guidance. At its core mandate, the commission states that everyone has the right to be treated equally and not discriminated against at work. It also says employers must make accommodations to help those with disabilities in the workplace.

“People with disabilities have the right to be provided with equipment, services, or devices that will allow them to do their job,” states the Commission’s Policy and Guidelines on Disability and the Duty to Accommodate.

In other words, providing an evacuation chair in the event of an emergency is one way to ensure you aren’t violating discrimination and human rights laws.

An Evacuation Chair is a Crucial Accessibility Tool

The Final Verdict: An Evacuation Chair is a Crucial Accessibility Tool

Between discrimination laws, the emergency guide, and the Labour Code, we believe it’s clear our escape chairs are the accessibility equipment every business should have in multi-storied buildings. Our evacuation chairs make it possible for people with reduced mobility to exit in an emergency.

With a little help from a co-worker, people with reduced mobility can strap in comfortably before setting off. Our escape chairs can easily handle up to 400 pounds or 181 kilograms. They rely on an advanced system of wheels and runners to glide downstairs as easily as they move down flat hallways. And thanks to our sophisticated brake system, each part of the process is smooth and controlled.

Make an Evacuation Chair a Part of Your Emergency Preparedness Plan

Here at Evacuscape, we know our evacuation chairs are simple to use accessibility tools, but we recommend you include training as part of your emergency preparedness plan.

Assign several people to operate the escape chairs in an emergency and then demonstrate how to use it properly, making sure each of them has a chance to operate it on their own. We send along a training DVD to simplify this step, and you can catch a sneak preview by watching these videos of our chairs that demonstrate how easy our stair chairs are to operate.

The more people who know how to use our escape chairs, the better. If someone is sick — or one of the designated operators need to use the escape chair due to an injury — another person can competently take their place.

This training should be an ongoing habit. Just as you routinely practise fire drills, you should regularly rehearse how to use these escape chairs. Operators who refresh their training will be more comfortable using this equipment, and they’ll find it easier to perform under pressure should they ever have to operate it in an emergency.

Regular training also gives you an opportunity to inspect the equipment and ensure it’s ready for use in the next emergency. There’s no way to predict when that will be, so don’t delay in adding a stair chair to your evacuation plans today.

While the law may not explicitly state you need an evacuation chair, it does require you to make the appropriate accommodations to ensure everyone gets out safely. That includes employees and guests who may be disabled, injured, or ill. When navigating the stairs is necessary in an emergency, they may need help that only a stair chair can provide.

To learn more about our chair models and how they help you accommodate people with reduced mobility, get in touch with us today. One of our knowledgeable representatives can help you choose the model that best fits your business’ needs — whether you’re a small outfit of 10 or a multi-conglomerate with thousands on the payroll.

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