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Disabled employees' lives at risk due to poor evacuation procedures

DISABLED employees are being put at risk by bosses’ ignorance of safe workplace evacuation procedures, a campaigner has warned.

Sarah Rennie called for clear government guidance and codes of practice for businesses to ensure the safety of their mobility-impaired employees and site visitors.

She spoke out after a survey of British businesses found a lack of awareness and preparation for the evacuation of mobility-impaired members of staff.

Ms Rennie co-founded Claddag, which represents disabled people living in homes affected by the cladding and building safety failings highlighted by the Grenfell Tower disaster.

The accessibility consultant and fire safety campaigner, who is herself a wheelchair user, said that there could not be different levels of safety in different environments.

For the study, West Midlands-based emergency evacuation chair manufacturer Evac+Chair International surveyed 490 small and medium business decision-makers nationwide.

A quarter were not aware of the number of mobility-impaired people in their organisation, the research found.

And 29 per cent of organisations have only “some” or even “very little” understanding of their obligations when it comes to safe evacuations.

Ms Rennie said that she was “sadly” not surprised by the findings, “as somebody who’s been working as a disabled person all my adult life.”

After what happened during the Grenfell fire in 2017 “there really is no excuse,” she insisted.

The inquiry into the blaze has heard how disabled tenants were “trapped” because there was “no plan” for their evacuation in an emergency.

It advised the government to impose a legal obligation on landlords to provide a personal emergency evacuation plan (PEEP) for each of their disabled tenants.

Claddag has complained about government “failure” to implement the inquiry recommendations relating to disabled people living in high-rise flats and is waiting for a judge’s ruling, expected sometime this year, on the High Court battle.

Ms Rennie said that the findings of the latest survey not only showed that disabled people could also be “at risk” in the workplace, but also suggested that disabled colleagues were being viewed differently..

She said: “I think that employers need to consider what that says about their values and about the way they view disabled colleagues. 

“And so, if you’re allowing that risk to go unanswered, then I think you need to ask yourself why.”

The government has been approached for comment.


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