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Safety update for wheelchair accessible minibuses

Posted by [email protected] on April 12, 2015 at 3:35 PM

Safety for wheelchair users has always been a priority for owners of accessible minibuses.

On 29 October 2014, a change in the construction regulations for new accessible minibuses brings the

regulations into line with best practice. It should also help to ensure that the safety of wheelchair

users is closer to that of seated passengers in the same minibus.

Research has shown that 3-point lap and diagonal safety belts for wheelchairs, where the shoulder

belt has a high level mounting above shoulder level, are much more effective in a crash than the older

type 2-point belts, where the shoulder belt goes over the shoulder and then down to floor level to

secure in the tracking. Changes in construction regulations now make the safer 3-point safety belts

compulsory in new vehicles. In most cases, that will mean a line of tracking fitted above window level,

on the so-called cant rail, to provide an upper mounting for the wheelchair user’s shoulder belt.

The key points are:

• From 29 October 2014, new accessible minibuses must have provision for 3-point passenger

restraints for wheelchair users – ie an upper mounting for the shoulder belt.

• There is no requirement to retro-fit cant rail tracking to existing vehicles – and it may not be

feasible or cost-effective to do so on an older vehicle.

• Where cant rail tracking is already fitted to an existing accessible minibus, it should be used for

3-point lap and diagonal passenger safety belts for wheelchair users. This is not a legal

requirement but it is best practice and has been for quite some time.

Many minibuses built over the last 10 years or so have cant rail tracking fitted but it is not always

used. If there were an accident and an injured wheelchair user had been provided with an old floorfixing

2-point lap and diagonal belt, when they could have used a safer 3-point belt as the vehicle had

cant rail tracking fitted, the operator could be found to have failed to comply with best practice and this

could be deemed to be evidence of negligence. So if your minibus has cant rail tracking fitted, make

sure that you have 3-point safety belts so that you can use it. If you have Unwin’s equipment, it

should be possible to buy an extra strap instead of a whole new set of equipment.

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