Who needs an evacuation chair?

It is a legal requirement for businesses to ensure that they can evacuate all occupants of their building, both employees and visitors, in an emergency. The Regulatory Reform Order 2005 states that safe and effective means of escape must be available to all building users. The Equality Act 2010 highlights the importance of recognising the individual needs of people with disabilities. Responsible persons therefore have a legal duty to install evacuation devices if they are, or could be, required.

For every evacuation device installed, at least one member of staff must be trained to use it.
Evacuation chair training is just as important as installation

If a property has stairs, an evacuation chair may be required to ensure that everyone can leave the building safely. For every evacuation chair installed, there must be at least one employee trained to use it. Visit our help guide for more information on training and maintenance.

Safe evacuation with an evacuation chair

Unless the lift is suitable for emergency use, anyone who would normally use it due to mobility issues will need an evacuation chair. Other individuals may also need support to reach safety. Not all disabilities are visible, and evacuation chairs can provide a lifeline for people in a variety of circumstances.

Employees with a long-term illness

Some people with long-term illnesses, such as MS, Parkinsons, and COPD, may need support to evacuate. Employees with long-term illnesses may not always need mobility support, but flare-ups could occur that mean support is required. Personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs) for these employees should reflect the needs of individuals on a case-by-case basis, and be updated as circumstances change.

People with injuries

Temporary injuries, such as fractures, may prevent someone who is usually fully mobile from being able to evacuate. Injuries which limit mobility should be addressed with temporary PEEPs. Actions to ensure the safety of the individual must be taken. It may be possible to provide the injured person with a ground floor office to enable independent evacuation. If this is not possible, an alternative option for evacuation such as an evacuation chair should be considered.

Anyone with temporary injuries may need support to evacuate

People recovering from illness

People recovering from illness or surgery may have limited mobility, and therefore need support to evacuate. Employers should conduct back-to-work interviews to determine whether an evacuation chair will be required to meet the needs of any employee returning to work following serious illness or surgery.

People with autism or other learning difficulties

Neurodivergence affects everyone differently. Some people with autism or another learning difficulty may never need support to evacuate a building. Some may sometimes need support, and others may always need support. PEEPs should be in place for employees who could or would need support due to anxiety, overwhelm, and distress caused by an emergency. PEEPs will also reveal whether an evacuation chair is suitable or could be required.

Pregnant people

Due to stress, exhaustion, or limited mobility, evacuation chairs may be required to meet the safety needs of pregnant people. This is particularly important for buildings with multiple flights of stairs. Ongoing risk assessments for pregnant employees should reflect whether mobility support might be required in an emergency.

Pregnancy can impact mobility

Partially sighted people

Some people with visual impairments may be able to use the stairs day-to-day, but would not feel comfortable doing so in an emergency due to crowds or smoke. Installing evacuation chairs to support partially sighted people to get to safety should be a consideration.

Bariatric people

Bariatric people may struggle to descend stairs safely in an emergency, even if they usually take the stairs. A PEEP should be in place for any employee identified as vulnerable during a fire drill, or through self-identification. This will reveal whether a specialist bariatric evacuation chair is required.

Geriatric people

Older people may have visual impairments, frailty, Alzheimer’s or complex health problems which limit their mobility, and ability to evacuate quickly. In public buildings such as shops, museums and community centres, as well as offices which take visitors, an evacuation chair could be required to assist with the evacuation of older people. It is reasonable to assume that visitors to public buildings would have enough mobility to use an evacuation chair. However, in a hospital or care setting, evacuation sheets should be installed for those who are bed bound, and would not be able to use a chair.

Safe Evacuation Plan

In conclusion, if it is possible that someone entered the building with a mobility aid which would not operate in the event of a fire, like a lift or escalators, you should be prepared to evacuate them with an evacuation device. PEEPs should identify requirements of employees or known building users with additional support needs, and individual needs must be met. In public buildings where the number of people needing support to evacuate is unknown, this needs to be factored into the GEEP (General Emergency Evacuation Plan). Ultimately, personal circumstances change, and anyone could need an evacuation device at short notice, so PEEPS & GEEPS should be regularly revised. Installing at least one evacuation chair in your building prepares your organisation for the safe evacuation of everyone inside.

For more information about installing emergency evacuation equipment, visit out help guide, or view our range of Evac+Chairs to find the best device for your organisation.

Evacuation Chair Training Requirements

As with any other item of fire safety equipment, there is a requirement to deliver training. If an organisation determines that an evacuation chair is required sufficient training should be provided. Evacuation chair training ensures that nominated staff members can act quickly and confidently when called to do so. Evacuation chair training is therefore required to fulfil what HSE identify as organisations’ ‘duty to provide a means of escape for disabled people’.

Evacuation chair training in a a classroom
Training can be delivered to groups of up to 4 delegates

Is evacuation chair training a legal requirement?

Yes, where evacuation chairs are installed, staff must legally be trained to use the equipment. This is required by the Equality Act 2010, which recognises the difficulties that some individuals may face during an evacuation. Under this act, organisations are responsible for providing means for safe evacuation of every building occupant. This includes both installing evacuation chairs where required, and training enough staff to use them. According to the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) 1998, equipment provided for use at work can be ‘used only by people who have received adequate information, instruction and training.’ This is essential for evacuation chairs, which are considered to be medical equipment. Misuse in a stressful evacuation situation puts the operator, the chair user, and those around them at risk of injury.

Why is evacuation chair training required?

There are legislative requirements for evacuation chair training. The qualification ensures the safety and confidence of both the chair user and the operator. If not used correctly, lives could be put at risk. Training is therefore essential to ensure the competence of the chair operator, who has undertaken a significant personal responsibility to evacuate a friend, colleague, or visitor to safety in an emergency.

Evacuating a pregnant lady in an evacuation chair
Individuals may need support to evacuate for a variety of reasons

Who should receive training?

Due to the significant responsibility placed on individuals who receive training, it is important to ensure that they meet the following criteria:

  • They are a willing volunteer – no one should be forced to take on this responsibility.
  • They are responsible – staff members selected should be sensible, reliable, and understand the importance of their role.
  • They work in the vicinity of the person identified as needing support. It must be practical and possible for the trained member of staff to get to both the chair and the chair user in an emergency (e.g., they should work on the same floor).
  • They are physically able. Nominees trained to use the chair don’t need to be incredibly strong, but mobility and stamina might be required.
  • There should be enough individuals trained to cover shift patterns and absence from work.

How often should training be refreshed?

Once an individual has successfully completed an evacuation chair training course, they can operate that model of chair for up to 3 years. After this time, refresher training is legally required. There are several other reasons that evacuation chair training might need to be carried out again. If a member of staff who is trained to use the chair leaves, is promoted, or otherwise becomes unable to operate it, a replacement member of staff must be trained. Similarly, if a new FRA, PEEP, or fire drill identifies an individual who would not be able to evacuate, and an additional chair is installed, another member of staff must receive evacuation chair training.

evacuation chair training on a staircase
Training provides delegates with the necessary skills and confidence to support safe evacuation

How many people should receive training on your evacuation chairs?

At a minimum, there must be one evacuation chair installed for every person who would need support to evacuate. For every chair installed, at least one member of staff must be trained and confident to operate it. However, to ensure the safety of all building users when trained staff are unavailable (on annual leave, off sick, or moved to a different office), it is sensible to train additional members of staff where possible. Enrolling a member of staff in a ‘Train the Trainer’ course can be a cost-effective way for training to be dispersed throughout your organisation.       

Fulfilling your organisation’s evacuation chair training requirements

For more information about the importance of training and maintenance for evacuation chairs visit our help guide. Book an evacuation chair training course with Safelincs to equip your employees with comprehensive theoretical and practical training from a fully qualified and experienced trainer. These on-site evacuation chair trainings courses are available nationwide, and suitable for up to 6 participants per course.