This article was written by John Moran, a director at Minerva Security, which shares over 70 years of experience in the commercial security and fire safety industry.
Whilst it is a really positive move that more and more companies are employing people with disabilities it does mean that these companies will invariably have to alter their premises. These changes will have to be made to fit in with fire safety regulations as well as health and safety at work considerations.
Employing disabled people means the companies that have not done so already will have to review the facilities at their work premises. Now if their premises are open for the public to use they may have already made some adjustments such as having door release buttons or switches at wheelchair height, and disabled toilets.
The exact changes, which need to be made can depend on the size of the company, as well as the individual needs of any disabled employee. Under the terms of the Health And Safety At Work Act and relevant disability rights legislation employers have to make all reasonable adjustments for their disabled staff. These changes have to be made so that the staff in question can be as productive as possible, and as any other worker. Companies also need to check out the fire safety regulations as well.
All companies need to think about full access issues such as replacing steps with ramps, having disabled toilets installed, or making things guide dog friendly and compatible. If the company occupies a building with several floors then it may have to consider placing disabled workers on the ground floor in case of emergency situations or in the event of fires. If staff are working above the ground floor level then fire escapes and exits will have to altered to ensure disabled staff can use them in an emergency. For example steps may have to be replaced with ramps or walkways.
Then computers, desks, chairs, and screens will have to be altered to be accessible. The employer has to make sure the adjustments are made in order to allow for all disabled staff to work in comfort and safety. The employer should also make similar changes for all able bodied staff.
The hiring of disabled people may also lead to a review of any existing commercial security systems used on the work premises. This review could entail relocating the fire and security sensors and switches to wheelchair height. The alarm control panels may have to be moved as well. If there any deaf members of staff other ways of alerting them to fire or bomb alerts will have to be considered. Perhaps they could have a colleague let them know what is happening. It may also be advisable to fit emergency alarms in disabled toilets too.
Changes to commercial security systems may be overlooked as companies concentrate more on access issues. However a full assessment should be made of the needs of the disabled members of staff to make sure that all their needs are discussed, and by working out all alterations that need to be selected. These changes will benefit companies as they will have more productive workers.
By John Moran