A Legislative Imbalance in Egress Provisions

Recent legislative changes in Australia have introduced more equitable access to and within commercial buildings. However, the movement to provide accessible and inclusive built environments has failed to extend to the area of emergency egress.

Dr Proulx and Egressabilty

The late Canadian researcher Guylène Proulx, Ph.D  used the term “egressability” in the paper ‘Internal Report No. 843 Fire Risk Management Program Institute for Research in Construction National Research Council Canada‘, released in March 2002.

Dr. Guylène Proulx was an outstanding researcher in human factors and human behavior related to fire safety. In her 2002 paper, she stated that the concept of “egressability” does not imply that the means of egress should be the same for everyone, but that there should be an equal level of life safety for everyone. She added that in Canada, federal and provincial human rights legislation require safe access and egress from buildings for people with disabilities. This also applies in Australia with our government ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities.

Hand-in-Hand with Accessibility

The concept of ‘egressability’ must go hand-in-hand with accessibility. Proulx surmised that in the context of egressability, finding evacuation solutions specifically for occupants with disabilities will likely be different evacuation procedures for occupants without disabilities. Everyone has an equal right to life safety during an emergency, and whilst the method of emergency egress might vary for different user groups, nonetheless, everyone must be given an opportunity to leave a building during an emergency.

It’s time to start thinking about egressability. Society is changing; we are living in higher density and occupying taller buildings, obesity is on the increase, and with an ageing population, we can expect to see an increase in disabilities. Additionally, the threat of terrorist attacks in public spaces is now a fact of life across the western world.

Consider adopting EgressAbility™ concepts into your building or workplace design and look for alternative strategies to improve the effectiveness of emergency egress.

EgressAbility™ principles provide additional accessible features within egress paths to ensure a safer and more intuitive environment; it reduces risks for building owners and managers and can ultimately help reduce fatalities.

Egress Group Pty Ltd

EgressAbility™ is part of Egress Group Pty Ltd, ABN 71 169 509 611.

We aim to continue the work undertaken by Dr. Guylène Proulx and other leaders in this area by campaigning for an equitable approach to building life and fire safety for all people in our society.