Workplace evacuation for persons with disabilities: Planning tips

Posted by Mobile Stairlift on Apr 13, 2022 7:00:00 AM

According to OSHA, every workplace in the USA must have an emergency action plan that ensures all employees can get to safety in case of a fire or other crisis. While businesses with fewer than 10 employees can communicate their plan orally, anyone bigger must draw it up in writing, and keep it readily available in the workplace. 

Crucially, these plans have to be inclusive and ensure that a safe, quick emergency evacuation is possible for everyone regardless of a permanent or temporary disability. This includes planning for people who need assistance but are ambulatory (able to walk), or not. 

Whether you’re reviewing an existing plan of the evacuation procedures in your workplace or drawing one up from scratch, these tips should help with creating a comprehensive plan. From pointers on selecting fire evacuation equipment for employees with a disability, to key characteristics of an effective plan — here’s what you need to know. 

What Should Your Workplace Evacuation Plan Include? 

First identify the needs of all employees. This ensures you draw up a plan that ensures everyone gets the assistance they may need to evacuate safely. While we recommend consulting the appropriate OSHA mandates to finalize the details, your initial evacuation procedure for the workplace should include the following: 

  • A method to report fires and emergencies. Employees should have a secure way to notify others of an emergency. From this, the safety supervisor can assess the danger and warn the rest of the team in a timely manner.

  • Prominent alarms and warning signs. Once the risk has been assessed and evacuation is needed, the safety supervisor should set off the appropriate alarm systems. The sound should be distinctive and easy to see and hear for those who might have an impairment. 

  • Clear emergency escape procedures and routes. Include mapped evacuation routes that employees can use during a fire. Safe and accessible routes should be noted for those with mobility impairments and who may make use of evacuation equipment, for example, passages with wider staircases or ramps. These routes should be marked clearly with signs. The map should be placed on each floor of your workplace and be easy for employees to see and learn. 

  • A safe assembly location. Have a clearly marked location far away from danger where employees can gather. The spot should be easily accessible for those with impairments, but far enough away from flames and smoke, in case of a fire. This is the best time to conduct a headcount to ensure all members of staff have evacuated safely. 

  • Emergency contact numbers. Keep a list of numbers to contact once safely evacuated. This could include numbers for emergency services and any managers that need to be notified about the evacuation. If anyone is still in the building, notify first responders.

  • Designation of roles and responsibilities. Employees should be given a clear chain of command beforehand. This can include designating roles to those who can work fire extinguishers, those who can assist employees with mobility impairments, and those who can assist with first aid while waiting for EMTs. 

  • Trained assistants to help the mobility impaired. People with impairments cannot wait for emergency services to arrive before being moved. Make sure members in your team are trained to safely evacuate anyone with temporary or permanent disabilities. The training can be anything from a buddy system, to using special evacuation equipment. 

    While these considerations apply to any emergency, responding to fires as someone with a mobility impairment can take a little more planning. We’ve created a guide to help you, and your employees with mobility impairment, prepare — click the button below for your free copy.

    EZ evacuation chair text sharing link to download the fire evacuation guide for mobility impaired

    What Equipment Is Essential for a Safe Evacuation?

    Investing in just a few essential pieces of equipment can significantly lower the risk of injury in case of emergency. These include: 

    • First aid kit. Make sure your workplace kit follows OSHA guidelines and its contents are continually refreshed. Remember you may need to stock items that cater for your employees with disabilities, even if these are not mandated by law.

    • Fire extinguishers. While evacuation is the first priority, keep a fire extinguisher on each floor of your workplace to stop smaller fires from growing.

    • Evacuation chairs and/or other evacuation devices. While the type of equipment you keep on standby is determined by your building and employee needs, you are required to have some. Paramedic stair chairs are specifically designed to help evacuate non-ambulatory persons from danger, and don’t need specialist training to operate. 

    • Flashlights. Your building should have emergency lighting installed, in case the electricity is cut during a crisis. However, flashlights (with fresh batteries!) are essential back-up if this system fails, and if evacuating at night or when alerting first responders to your location. 

      This, and other essentials, should be kept in designated locations which every employee knows where to find. Thankfully, everything here, including the evacuation chair, is portable and easy to store.

      Why Does Your Workplace Need an Evacuation Chair?

      A person with mobility impairments shouldn’t be left alone until the emergency services arrive, or be carried down the stairs without safety restraints. During an emergency people often rush, which can lead to more accidents and nasty stumbles. 

      An EMS evacuation stair chair is a safe and reliable emergency mobility aid that ensures you and your team can assist people with mobility impairments during an evacuation, without needing specialist training to operate safely. It’s durable, easily stored and can help evacuate people with a range of disabilities. They’re also affordable, and require very little maintenance. 

      At Mobile Stairlift, we’re committed to helping you keep your whole team safe, and have created a durable and lightweight evacuation chair with this in mind. Our FDA-approved EZ Evacuation chair is designed to serve as a reliable, easy-to-operate aid to safely evacuate anyone in the office who may need a little extra help. Click the button below to learn more about our evacuation chair, or contact us directly with your query.

      EZ evacuation chair product page link

Topics: Evacuation Chair