It’s time to take a look at an issue inside the commercial sector of our industry.

We already know there are many building regulations in force but the Equality Act (if you are passionate about disability rights) is one that gets very little love. As installers, whether it’s commercial or residential work that we do, we should all be aware of the Equality Act.

Today’s post is a guest post from Aluminium Trade Supply, designed to raise awareness of the Equality Act in our industry.

If you carry out commercial work such as fitting doors to shops, schools or other public buildings you are probably manufacturing or buying-in commercial doors that you assume are correct and fit for purpose.

Are you aware that these commercial doors must comply with the Equality Act 2010 (formerly known as the Disability Discrimination Act) along with BS8300 and Approved Document M of the current Building Regulations.

In 1995 the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) was passed as law. In 2010 the DDA was incorporated into and superseded by the Equality Act.

What does the Equality Act mean?

It is unlawful under this Act to discriminate against disabled people in any way.   The Equality Act tries to ensure that people with certain protected characteristics (such as a disability) have equal access to services and are free from direct and indirect discrimination. The Government legislated that “service providers” (anyone who provides a service to the public) must make “reasonable adjustments to the physical features of their premises”. These features must allow disabled people whether infirm, blind or physically impaired to still access their business.

There are potentially unlimited fines possible for people that break the law in relation to the Equality Act.
It is important to remember that it is “services” that are covered by the Equality Act and not products or buildings. Therefore it the key issues is how people access a service. i.e your client’s business.

Whilst the media has not reported many cases of failure to comply with the Act, it is likely that many claims against small and large companies made by the public or disability rights groups are being settled out of court. The obvious negative implications associated with a business not being accessible to disabled users is something any reputable business will wish to avoid.

When a the owner of a commercial property contacts a professional door installer they have the expectation that the advice and recommendations offered will be compliant with all relevant legislation. They will not expect to be left with the potential to be defending legal action from disability groups, or enforcement action from building control. You as a door installer will be all to aware that when there is any kind of issue with the installation it is you that the client or end user will call.

We know of cases where the installers have been compelled to replace brand new doors that upon testing by building inspectors failed to meet legal and building regulation requirements. As one example, the installers of internal and external doors in one large commercial building recently were forced to replace 300 complete door sets or their closers.

What makes a door compliant?

One critical part is the door closer. A compliant door closer will have the built-in adjustment to change the opening and closing forces.

Building Regulations state that minimum opening and closing forces are required to make a swing door accessible and compliant. In order for the door to be compliant the fully installed, glazed and finished product must be tested to check whether it meets the required opening and closing forces to make it accessible for disabled people.

So, the question is:

Are you are one of the many window companies buying and installing doors with cheap or standard closers that only have adjustment of closing and latching speeds but don’t have the necessary adjustment of the tension and opening/closing forces?

Are you presuming just because your door has come with a closer that it must meet current Building Regulations?

Who has the responsibility for being compliant?

The responsibility will be on the building owner or occupier to ensure that they do not discriminate against disabled people trying to access their services.  So you may think “this is not my problem, I am just the installer”.

You already correctly advise your customers about other legal requirements such as toughened safety glass in doors, low level glazing, and for trickle vents in windows. Therefore, shouldn’t you as a professional door installer also be providing them with information about how a new shop door to a local newsagent or hairdressers must comply with the Equality Act? This raises a number of questions:

  • Which one of you has the responsibility?
  • Is it your supplier that should make you aware? – After all they make the doors.
  • Should your customer wanting a new door tell you? – The responsibility is on the building owner after all.

There is nothing complicated about this issue but attention to detail is vital

As an installer of commercial aluminium doors you do have a responsibility to your client to the extent that they do not fall foul of Building Regulations and the Law. If your customer faces enforcement action you can be sure that they will try to include you and the systems company in the muddle.

On the Aluminium Trade Supply website we have been writing about disabled access for commercial doors for some time. On the site there is content that covers the main points about installing compliant doors, namely:

  • Fitting closers with adjustable tension strength
  • Handles with contrasting colours
  • Handles with “warm to the touch” material
  • Contrasting colour doors to frame
  • Low thresholds

We have been running a Door Installer Survey for the last few months to measure the current levels of awareness of this issue. So far we have had really good participation from door installers and would love it if you wanted to take part too. It should only take a few minutes to complete and is anonymous. Once you have completed the survey you are also able to download a full information pack to help you fit compliant doors.

We will be publishing the results of this survey soon. Already analysis of our survey reveals very interesting and surprising results around this issue, so please do take part .

The Aluminium Trade Supply Website will be pleased to offer whatever assistance we can to door installers about the issues of compliance and suitability of use. However if you need a full statement of your legal liabilities and obligations, or are currently involved in a dispute you should consult your own properly qualified legal advisers.

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