Every employer has a duty of care when it comes to protecting their employees in case of fire, and whether you run a simple corner shop or a sprawling office complex, this duty of care extends to your disabled employees just as much as your able-bodied workers. Consequently, you need to ensure that fire safety equipment for your disabled employees is properly supplied and positioned, as many disabled people are unable to operate conventional fire safety equipment.
Fortunately, help is at hand, and safety equipment manufacturers offer a wide variety of equipment specifically designed with the disabled person in mind. The following pieces of equipment are some of the most effective and widely used, and should be present and easily accessible to any and all disabled persons you employ:
Braille evacuation notices
Highly visible signage that displays evacuation instructions and emergency rendezvous points are a legal requirement in all commercial buildings, but these signs aren't particularly useful to the visually impaired. Your signs should therefore have Braille translations that can be easily read and understood by your blind employees, allowing them to follow instructions and safely evacuate your premises with a minimum of delay.
Fire evacuation chairs
If you run a multi-story business premises, or your business is located on the upper floors of a larger building complex, providing a safe way for wheelchair users to navigate stairwells in the event of a fire is vital. Using elevators during a fire is never advisable, and can place disabled employees in even more danger if the fire causes your elevator system to fail.
Fire evacuation chairs are designed with wheelchair users in mind, and consist of a stable, secure chair with wheels that are designed to navigate stairs without causing the chair to topple or become imbalanced. When used, these chairs allow a wheelchair-bound employee and an assistant to rapidly descend stairwells without compromising their safety or the speed with which they evacuate. These chairs should be positioned by all major stairwells, and you should designate one or more helpers to assist wheelchair users in using them in the event of a fire.
Visual fire alarms
The piercing shriek of an average fire alarm is eminently noticeable to the able-bodied, but partially or profoundly deaf employees can have far more trouble hearing and reacting to them promptly, placing them in potential danger and slowing the evacuation of your premises. You should therefore have visual fire alarms installed; these alarms alert deaf employees using bright flashing lights, allowing them to evacuate promptly and without assistance.
You do not necessarily have to install dedicated visual alarms for your deaf employees, as many modern alarm systems combine auditory alarms with flashing beacons to provide equal warning to deaf and non-deaf employees alike. However, you should ensure that your visual alarms are located in easily visible locations. A flashing beacon, no matter how bright, is no use to anybody if it is tucked away in a stock cupboard or rarely-used corner of your office.