How to Ensure Your Laboratory is Equality Act CompliantRyan White
Replacing the Disability Discrimination Act seven years ago, the Equality Act 2010 seeks to protect those in the workplace, as well as wider society as a whole, from discrimination and inequality. Streamlining several anti-discrimination laws into a single act, its provisions protect against discrimination and harassment in terms of gender, disability, maternity as well as a whole host of other issues.
As a result, it’s imperative that your laboratory is compliant with the requirements outlined by the act, including access and movement around the lab for everyone, regardless of ability. There is something of a misconception that laboratories are unsuitable for people with disabilities. However, this is not the case, and as the Equality Act 2010 requires, all employers must treat people equally in terms of employment issues. Therefore, they have a duty to make the proper adjustments to working conditions, so anyone with disabilities is not at a disadvantage.
Here, we’ll guide you through the arrangements of your laboratory’s layout and design to ensure it complies with the Equality Act 2010.
The design of your building should have the requisite disabled access to make sure everyone can enter safely and easily. It may be that you have wheelchair access, but is this a passageway close to a smoking area that could be cluttered with obstacles, for example? Is this a pleasant way to access the lab?
The design should be one that ensures entering the building is a pleasant, problem-free issue. Wheelchair ramps should be clearly signposted, while handrails to the side of ramps should be provided for those who need support when walking.
Be mindful of how the doors to the building open, whether they’re inwardly opening or automatic, and if there’s a chance of swing shut, and trapping hands and fingers.
If there are PIN pads, they should be at an accessible height for wheelchair users, while fire doors should be wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs. Additionally, it might be worth fitting them with automated hold-open electro-magnet mechanisms for further ease of access. Likewise, is there reserved parking for disabled people?
In the lab itself, there should be adequate space, including the necessary distance between workspaces, along with wide corridors to accommodate those with disabilities, while the use of adjustable benches aid in adapting to the differing heights of those using chairs or wheelchairs. Our active desk system lets users adjust the desk or bench height in a stable and smooth manner. Additionally, can equipment be readily moved down to where others are working without problems? Likewise, the width of the bench may have to be altered so taps, electrical power points and other controls are easily reachable.
Don’t forget about the flooring either. Floors should be well maintained, and free from holes, unnecessary slopes and raised sections that can cause difficulties for those in wheelchairs or may be dangerous to partially—sighted or blind employees.
In the event of emergencies, pull-cord alarm buttons should be provided so people can call for assistance, while flashing lights should be made part of the alarm system for those hard of hearing, including all areas they have access to, such as the toilet. Ensure those people with disabilities are aware of the correct pre-arranged meeting place in case of emergencies.
Ensure that laboratory work can be carried out by those with disabilities. Issues with dexterity should be accounted for, using technological aids where necessary to support the completion of tasks. For example, if someone isn’t able to type on a computer keyboard, consider a dictation package to streamline the use of computer programs. Likewise, Braille notetakers and computers with screen reader and Braille displays are necessary for those with impaired vision. Similarly, ensure that cables and equipment are marked with dyno Braille tape so people can easily identify the necessary apparatus.
Washbasins should be at a suitable height so they can be used by anyone in a wheelchair. Lever taps can also be used since they can be operated by touch rather than needing to be turned – they’re designed to be turned on by elbows mainly and are easy to use.
Most, if not all, of the above should be implemented in order to be compliant with the Equality Act 2010. In terms of access, most of the issues pointed out can be implemented at minimal cost. Requiring new technology will be slightly more expensive, though correctly labelling equipment shouldn’t be too cost intensive and will be easy to implement. Disabilities should not prevent working in a laboratory – eliminating, reducing or controlling risks is a reasonable ask and easily implementable.
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