Wheelchair Ramp Safety In The Workplace
Ensuring workplace environments are safe for all staff, including those with disabilities is paramount for all companies. Couple this with the use of equipment such as wheelchairs, walking aids and mobility scooters and it becomes clear that ramp safety is of high importance when risk assessing your premises.
What is the Equality Act 2010?
It has been estimated that there are around 11 million disabled people in Great Britain, which makes up around 18% of the overall population. This equates to a significant number of people who require assisted access to buildings, and it is therefore hugely important that all organisations make this available. This topic has been supported by legislation; the Equality Act was introduced in 2010 to protect people who are vulnerable to discrimination and encourages organisations to do what is reasonable to create inclusive environments. In order to identify what is reasonable for an organisation, the cost of an adjustment, potential benefit it might bring to staff & visitors and the resources an organisation has will inform what changes should be implemented.
What are the benefits of the Equality Act 2010?
- Improving the facilities of organisations to be easily accessible will enable people with disabilities to have better opportunities in getting into work which helps improve unemployment in the surrounding areas. This will also enhance an organisations inclusivity and diversity values as they are encouraging a diverse group of employees to join their workforce.
- The Equality Act not only helps with getting potential employees into the workplace, but it will also support a more diverse customer base. It ensures that people with disabilities have equal opportunities to those without, and therefore they can go to the exact same commercial places as one another.
What can organisations do to offer accessibility to their premises?
Ramps - Ideally a ramp to the entrance to buildings should be installed, this provides an alternative to stairs for wheelchair users, people with mobility issues and people with prams, bicycles and other wheeled items. With any ramp it is important to get the correct slope, one which is too steep a slope will prove difficult for people to use and could even be unsafe, whilst a ramp with too shallow a slope can require excessive length
Alongside this, it is also vital to consider the material used on the ramp as walking on an inclined surface requires a higher level of friction. When deciding on the surface finish of a ramp, consider what contamination is likely, eg rainwater, spills etc and how the ramp will be used, eg for wheelchair access.
In order to test the friction and safety of the ramp, your company will benefit from regular pendulum slip testing. This ensures that your ramps and other areas of your premises are fit for purpose and offer at least the minimum in floor safety as outlined by HSE.
Handrails - You could also choose to integrate handrails to exterior steps for example, as this will offer support to those who struggle with using them. When installing handrails however, you need to ensure that they contrast visually with the background against which they are seen in order to help reduce any potential accidents occuring. Finally, it is important to consider the material of the handrails, to satisfy the Equality Act’s specific criteria which outlines they should not be “cold-to-the-touch”.
Flooring Materials - A final solution could be to re-evaluate the flooring material throughout the building to ensure that it it suitable for those who have disabilities. For example, some flooring materials could work against those using mobility supports. Improving the floor would also be helpful in reducing potential slips or falls, leading to injuries. Be sure to carry out slip resistance testing for building flooring, so that you can evaluate whether the current state is acceptable or needs to be altered.
Whether you need to test your current flooring material safety or want to know whether your existing ramps conform to the latest slip testing standards contact our team at National Testing. We are specialists in all types of slip resistance testing and are UKAS accredited meaning we offer only the best service to our customers.