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One in two companies is under prepared for evacuations in the workplace and wheelchair users and the mobility-impaired are most at risk from being unable to make a safe escape, according to a survey by evacuation specialists, Evac+Chair International.

The survey of one hundred human resources directors and managers, who are responsible for the safety of their employees, reported that 35 percent (more than one in three) said that wheelchair users or mobility-impaired employees within their company did not have a Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan (PEEP), which is required in accordance with fire safety legislation.

Around half (51 percent) of companies possess the necessary equipment to assist disabled and mobility-impaired employees in an evacuation, and fewer than 15 percent of the companies with equipment use it during emergency evacuation drills, indicating a stark lack of preparation for evacuation procedures in the workplace.

Mark Wallace, Managing Director of Evac+Chair International, said:

“As paralympic athletes prepare to champion British hearts and minds on our television screens, and greater attention is paid to the profile of disability in the UK, it is still easy to forget that even things such as a flight of stairs can present a huge obstacle to some workers.

“This survey shows that many employers in the UK still make inadequate provision for disabled staff and this needs to be urgently addressed.  Emergency evacuations are a stressful time for everyone involved. However, for mobility-impaired staff it represents an even greater worry. In order to reduce stress, all staff should be fully trained and competent using evacuation equipment to help people evacuate a building safely and efficiently. If they are not, then the usefulness of the equipment is nullified.”  According to the research, 62 percent of staff are unfamiliar with any equipment for safe evacuation of those who are mobility impaired, which would indicate that there is an obvious need to ensure all companies practice with equipment during drills.

Responding to the survey findings, Jim Norman, equality manager at the Disability Network, said:   “Everyone who enters a building must be able to leave it safely in an emergency and assemble at a place of safety. People with disabilities may need some arrangements in place to make use of evacuation equipment or have assistance to help them in emergencies.  This research shows that many disabled workers are still facing discrimination from their employers through their inadequate provision for a safe evacuation.  Employers are also failing to comply with fire safety legislation and could face prosecution.”  Mark Wallace concludes:   “Whilst they are an inconvenience, fire and evacuation drills, with the use of necessary evacuation equipment, should be carried out regularly in order to provide a safer environment for all employees.”