Safe enough for disabled workers means safer for all!

Consider yourself lucky to be an employer (or coworker) with a disabled worker on site; it might end up boosting the health and safety of all!

The European Agency for Safety and Health at Work makes this compelling point: a workplace that is accessible and safe for workers with disabilities will end up being safer and more accessible for all employees, clients and visitors.

I'm happy to be participating in Blogging Against Disabilism Day 2007; and since I'm all about workplace safety and health, naturally I checked out how that issue applies to disabled workers.

Turns out that in terms of regulation, no governing body treats health and safety for disabled persons any differently than H&S for other workers. For example, the policy of OSHA is

  • If an employee can perform their job functions in a manner which does not pose a safety hazard to themselves or others, the fact they have a disability is irrelevant.
  • To strive for working conditions which will safeguard the safety and health of all workers, including those with special needs and limitations.

The Office Fire Drill

However, practically and logistically speaking, sometimes you've got to handle health and safety differently if you have workers with disabilities.

Case in point: the emergency evacuation of an office, factory or other workplace. (How NOT to handle such an evacuation with a disabled worker can be seen here in a clip of the popular TV show, The Office - Fire Drill.)

Instead of this botched example, a responsible company will be able to answer:

  • Do your workers with disabilities have easy, quick access to an exit?
  • Which staff have you delegated to alert and assist employees with visual impairments or those who need help evacuating?
  • Do you provide visual alerting devices (such as flashing lights) as well as traditional noise alarms? (Consult with local fire, police and rescue on options available.)
  • Are your company's emergency procedures and policies available in Braille, large print, text file or cassette tape formats as needed?
  • Does your company's first aid kit have gloves to protect disabled workers' hands when manually pushing their wheelchairs, patch kits to repair flat tires, and extra batteries for those with motorized scooters or wheelchairs?
Posted by Nickie on May 2,2007 at 11:46 PM

Hi Heather,

You make a really good point.  A lot of safety that gets put in place for people with disabilities is good common sense for everyone.I hadn't seen the resources you pointed to, and will definitely keep them in mind.  Thanks for your post.

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