Commercial kitchens are fast-moving, dynamic workplaces. Things move quickly and happen as fast as possible.
Staff are preparing food, cooking, washing dishes, cleaning surfaces and floors, receiving deliveries, loading and unloading items from coolrooms and refrigerators and on and on it goes – needless to say, a lot of different activities are undertaken by people working in such an environment.
The same exists for ‘dark kitchens’, being those dedicated to selling via delivery services only, where the only people entering the premises are kitchen staff and delivery drivers/riders.
The DDA Premises Standards Access Code and the current NCC BCA acknowledge that this isn’t a typical work environment and that people with disability could be put into an unsafe situation when entering an environment where people are operating commercial cooking equipment.
Clause D3.4 in both of the references above state exactly the same wording:
The following areas are not required to be accessible:
(a) An area where access would be inappropriate because of the particular purpose for which the area is used.
(b) An area that would pose a health or safety risk for people with a disability.
(c) Any path of travel providing access only to an area exempted by (a) or (b).
One could argue that a person with a disability, including those who are blind, have low vision or have a significant mobility disability, wouldn’t be safe in a standard commercial kitchen designed for the needs of the occupants (i.e. a cafe or restaurant).
Since the introduction of the Premises Standards in May 2011, it hasn’t been that clear as to when the exemption provided under Clause D3.4 is applicable. To confirm compliance with the DDA Premises Standards and BCA, this must always be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Previously, the BCA prior to 2011 made it much clearer for project stakeholders to make this determination.
The now superseded BCA 2010 stated:
D3.3 Parts of buildings to be accessible
(a) In a building or part of a building required by Table D3.2 to be accessible—
(i) access must be provided—
(B) to areas normally used by the occupants, excluding any plantroom, commercial kitchen, cleaners’ store room, maintenance accessway, rigging loft, or the like;
BCA 2010 also stated:
It is not necessary to provide access for people with disabilities to—
(d) any area if access would be inappropriate because of the particular purpose for which the area is used.
However, to get some better guidance in this matter, the Australian Human Rights Commission released the Guideline on the Application of the Premises Standards (Version 2), which also references commercial kitchens in the statement below:
This clause sets out some general exemptions from the requirement to meet the Deemed-to-Satisfy Provisions of the Access Code and provides details on buildings or parts of buildings not required to be accessible under the Premises Standards (and BCA).
Paragraph D3.4(a) states that accessways are not required to certain areas within buildings where providing access would be ‘inappropriate’ because of the nature of the area or the tasks undertaken in that area.
Paragraph D3.4(b) states that areas that would impose a health or safety risk for people with disability are also not required to be accessible.
These areas could include cleaners store rooms, commercial kitchens, staff serving areas behind bars, cool rooms, rigging lofts, waste-containment areas, foundry floors, abattoir animal processing areas, railway shunting yards, electrical switch rooms, chemical and hazardous materials store areas, loading docks, fire lookouts, plant and equipment rooms and other similar areas.
Assessment of application of this general exemption to specific areas will need to be made on a case-by-case basis. Care needs be taken, however, to ensure that any assessment of the need to utilise this exemption is not based on assumptions about the ability of people with disability or people with a particular type of disability to undertake work in those settings.
Access Central can assist when it is not so crystal clear and a building surveyor/certifier requires additional guidance or an expert opinion on the application of the exemption under Clause D3.4.
It is a simple exercise for us to assess the proposed food or beverage premises design, staff roles and responsibilities, and the functionality of the staff back of house areas.
The Clause D3.4 exemption might also then be a consideration in assessing other aspects of the architectural design, including the need for accessible toilets for cafe or restaurant staff, an accessible staff entrance or an accessible staff car parking space.
However, as stated above – it is always a case-by-case assessment, as there are many aspects to consider to confirm compliance in commercial buildings. Including considering Clause D3.4 for other scenarios and uses, such as juice bars, shopping centre kiosks, bubble tea shops and so on.
If you need assistance when designing food and beverage tenancies please contact our office.