Legal requirements around evacuation

From staff training to the risk assessments, this overview will give you an understanding of what’s required

An efficient and robust evacuation strategy can act as a lifeline during emergency situations. As a person responsible for an organization or public space, the following overview should be familiar to you, and cover all the elements you already have in place.

Since the regulations and laws state the importance of evacuating all people who may be in your building, it's essential your staff members are fully trained and your evacuation procedures are up-to-date.

Please note, the following is just a high level guide to help you get started, on what is typically a large subject. If you have any specific questions, or would like to know more about anything in particular, please don't hesitate to contact one of our experts.

Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005

Enforcement of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 is leading to heavy fines, and even imprisonment for serious offenders. This legislation requires commercial buildings, non-domestic and multi-occupancy premises in England and Wales to appoint a "responsible person" to undertake a "serious and sufficient fire risk assessment".

The requirements can be briefly summed up as follows :

  • Carry out a fire risk assessment identifying any possible dangers and risks
  • Create a plan to deal with any emergency and, in most cases, keep a record of your findings
  • Consider who may be especially at risk
  • Get rid of, or reduce, the risk from fire as far as is reasonably possible and provide general fire precautions to deal with any possible risk left
  • Take other measures to make sure there is protection if flammable or explosive materials are used or stored
  • Review your findings when necessary

According to statistics from the Fire & Rescue Authorities of England, some 67,266 fire safety audits were carried out in non-domestic buildings in 2013-14, leading to 18,733 informal notifications and 2,050 enforcement notices. The most common cause of non-compliance, at 13.7%, was the failure to conduct risk assessments, closely followed by problems relating to emergency routes and exits, at 11.8%.

Equality Act 2010

Designed to protect all in society from acts of discrimination it includes provisions relating to both disability and the workplace environment.

Companies and responsible persons can be liable under the Equality Act 2010 if they are seen to be acting in a discriminatory manner by not providing means of escape to all – including those with disabilities.

Disability Equality Duty (DED) from December 2006

Public bodies have an additional duty, known as the DED, to proactively promote the equality of disabled people. It is essential that organizations in charge of public spaces must have evacuation plans in place for disabled people.

To find out more about evacuating people with disabilities, the technologies available and how to create different types of Personal Emergency Evacuation Plan's (PEEP's) for different building users, see our guide to evacuating people with disabilities.

Safety Training

In addition to regular fire safety training, staff members are also required to undergo disability escape etiquette training. Normally, the responsibility to provide this falls to the human resources department of most organisations, as they typically have day-to-day responsibility for all staff.

Your human resources department will also know of any changes in the mobility of your staff members. Remember, when we mention disabled people, this also includes able-bodied people who have temporary changes in mobility – for example, those with a broken ankle or leg.

System Standards

British Standards BS 5266: emergency lighting

BS5266 is the code of practice for the emergency lighting of premises, which provides information on the correct emergency lighting for the safety of people.

Additionally, the BS5266 code, along with the BSEN1838 code, provides specifiers with information regarding areas that need emergency lighting such as: the minimum levels of illumination, duration, maximum brightness to prevent glare, and any points of emphasis which require particular consideration.

Failure to comply with these stipulations not only puts lives at risk and raises the possibility of prosecution, but can also invalidate insurance policies.

BS EN50172:2004 Emergency escape lighting systems

EN50172 provides guidance on the servicing and testing of emergency lighting including the requirements for logging and recording testing.

Product Standards

As well as the system standards listed above, product standards codify best practice and ensure the design and manufacture of products provide safety and quality. Product standards for emergency lighting include:

BS EN 50171:2001 - Centrally powered systems
Specifies the general requirements for central power supply systems for an independent energy supply to essential safety equipment.

BS EN 62034:2012 - Automatic test systems for battery powered emergency escape lighting 
Determines the levels of performance and safety of products or components that are integrated into automatic emergency lighting testing systems for use on systems below 1000 V.

BS EN 60598-1: 2015 - General requirements and tests for luminaires
Characterises the marking, classification, mechanical and electrical construction and photobiological safety for luminaires with voltages below 1000 V.