Social distancing and hygiene considerations complicate the operation of lifts and escalators.
As offices slowly reopen, the operation of lifts and escalators may not be the first thought for employees but it will be on the minds of many FMs.
The safe use of lifts and escalators has been a priority for the industry. In the commercial office sector, 90 per cent of decision-makers and influencers said they were worried about the safe use of lifts, according to figures from the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport during the coronavirus pandemic.
Last month, in response to this need, the British Council for Offices (BCO) released guidance for the safe use of escalators and lifts.
The guidance emphasises the importance of social distancing and strict hygiene measures.
For lifts, this means reducing the time that doors stay open, implementing queue controls, marking where users should stand and upgrading controls to make them touchless – which could see the introduction of apps that allow users to select their floor by phone, or buttons which are pressed by foot.
Escalator users should expect to see markings signalling where they need to stand and to be guided by antimicrobial handrails. The guidance suggested that masks should be worn, particularly in lifts, and that hand sanitising stations should be provided at entry and exits points for lifts and escalators.
An average 2,000kg escalator carries 16 people, but will now be capped at just four.
The guidance stated that even if a vaccine is found, a future pandemic would necessitate the “same response”. To mitigate against future pandemics, substantial design changes would be needed, such as fitting wide doors on lifts and improving ventilation.
Chris Richmond, head of real estate at professional services firm, PwC, said: “As one of the first corporate occupiers in the UK to reopen all our offices in early July, we are committed to ensuring the safety of our people and maintaining a Covid-19 secure environment within all our offices.”
Richmond said lifts and escalators present “specific challenges” and welcomed the BCO guidance.
Richard Kauntze, chief executive at BCO, said: “As Britain’s offices slowly, safely reopen their doors, it’s vital that we think carefully about all of the different ways we need to change office life to protect people. Lifts and escalators are communal spaces – people are cramped together in lifts, escalator handrails can be touched by hundreds of hands a day – meaning they can present a real risk of virus transmission. This guidance helps make them safe and helps encourage employees back to the workplace.”
Neil Pennell, head of design innovation and property solutions at commercial property development firm Landsec, added: “Lifts and escalators are essential to many offices, but we barely think about them in our everyday lives. During these times they require a clear, process-driven approach to minimise the risk of virus transmission. It is essential that measures are put in place to ensure that social distancing is followed, and hygiene standards are high – this guidance will help to focus
The guidance, titled Thoughts on lift and escalator design and operation after Covid-19 is free to download for BCO members and non-members at www.bco.org.uk