These building regulations refer to the accessibility and use of buildings, Approved Document M (2015 edition) Volume 2 for Buildings other than dwellings (all other building types) and give direction on enabling a public access building to conform to the Equality Act (formerly DDA).
Section three within Part M, vol.2 sets the objective for the horizontal and vertical circulation of people in buildings, first covering the general lifting provisions and design requirements before going into specific requirements for each lift type.
We have outlined the wheelchair platform stairlift requirements below as well as some additional items that are a worthwhile consideration as part of your Part M stairlift.
Wheelchair stairlifts work by travelling up the flight of a staircase and are generally used in exceptional circumstances, typically within an existing building, provided its installation does not conflict with requirements for means of escape. Often these inclined platform stairlifts are used to provide access to an annexe, or sub-section of a building that can’t be accessed by the main lift.
Though there are general design considerations, there are also some more specific details. Below are the key questions to help ensure the requirements are met.
Wheelchair platform stairlifts work by travelling up the flight of a staircase, but it’s important to note that they must not be installed where their operation restricts the safe use of the stairs by other people, in particular, staircases used for evacuation purposes.
As such, there is a minimum stair width that needs to be maintained when the wheelchair platform is in the parked position.
Wheelchair lifts are in essence all ‘through’ platform lifts, with the ability to have a side access ramp added to aid getting on the lift at the lower level. Whilst travelling and once at the top of its travel, this side ramp does not come down, remaining up, to create a safety ‘tray’, with only the end ramp coming down onto and level with the upper rounded edge of the flight of stairs.
Part “M” requests an 800mm x 1250mm platform size for use in public areas, shops, sports centres and public buildings (libraries, etc). However, lift platform size selection is often based on the available space that the building has, generally, older buildings are not designed to accommodate lifts. Therefore, if a larger or smaller lift platform size is required, approval from building control must be sought as to what is acceptable for the area.
Some disabled people either do not use a wheelchair (as an example, some elderly people with limited mobility), have another chair waiting on the new level, or simply prefer not to travel in the chair.
Weight is also a consideration with some battery-powered wheelchairs exceeding the payload capability. These are not to be confused with mobility scooters, which are generally much heavier and have longer and wider wheelbases for stability. The user must sit in the middle of the lift chair, must be restrained with a seat belt (which can be provided) and must never stand on the platform whilst travelling.
The majority of wheelchair platform stairlifts are operated by continuous pressure controls, either a button or occasionally a joystick. The rated speed of these types of lifts does not exceed 0.15m/s. Due to the controls and the slow travel between landing, it’s important to note that they may not be suitable for users with certain disabilities, for example, those who become easily fatigued.
It’s essential that wheelchair platform lifts are only to be installed where users can be instructed how to use them safely. Lift users do not always need to be supervised, but, a detailed risk assessment needs to be undertaken in order to ascertain the degree of mobility that the average user has. Typically, category ‘A’ & ‘B’ wheelchair users will be able to operate the lift themselves, but assistance for more seriously disabled people must be on hand if/when required.
The results of the risk assessment will also dictate whether an alarm is necessary, e.g. due to hearing-impaired users, then this will need to be included in the lift specification. It’s also important that the lift is fitted with controls to prevent unauthorised use. This will ensure that fair access is provided for all but also ensures maximum safety at all times.
Lifting platforms must conform to the requirements of the Supply of Machinery (Safety) Regulations 1992. It also needs to comply to BS EN 81-40:2008 or where necessary, by product certification issued by a Notified Body. (Click here to see a glossary of lift standards).
For each different lift type, there are specific design considerations and provisions outlined in the Approved Document M – Volume 2. So once you know which product you require, it’s always worth stating to your chosen lift supplier that you require a Part M compliant lift or ‘Part M lift’ and they should be able to assist you with the process.
Of course, compliance to Part M is just one of the many factors to evaluate when choosing the right type of lift, or lifts, for your building project. In fact, we have a helpful blog outlining the three key considerations when choosing a lift.
A reputable lift provider will be able to assist you in your decision making, however, it’s certainly worth being well-informed about these design considerations yourself. Here at Stannah, we offer a broad range of platform lift products (and passenger lifts) to enable easy vertical circulation, working with you to solve your access problem and comply with building regulations.
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