Kevin Ian Schmidt

Emergency Exits: OSHA Standards

Emergency Exits are in every business, they are even required by most fire codes, but they are often an overlooked and worse even neglected integral part of a successful safety program. They should even be addressed in your Emergency Action Plan, but if you don’t address them correctly, it can result in OSHA fines, or worse an injured employee or customer.

OSHA standards for emergency exits require employers to do the following:

■ Keep exit routes free of explosive or highly flammable furnishings and other decorations.
Keep flammable chairs, and decorations, or even flammable clothing displays back from emergency exits.
■ Arrange exit routes so employees will not have to travel toward a high-hazard area unless the path of travel is effectively shielded from the high-hazard area.
emergency exitsCheck Out: Fire Risk Assessments

If an exit route is through a backroom, between 2 giant stacks of cardboard boxes, or similar material, it probably won’t meet this standard.

■ Ensure that exit routes are unobstructed such as by materials, equipment, locked doors, or dead-end corridors.
Not only do exit routes and doors have to have a clear path of egress, you also need to ensure that the path doesn’t require weaving around items, or working through a maze of rooms.
■ Ensure that safeguards designed to protect employees during an emergency remain in good working order.
Do you have sprinklers? They need to be inspected regularly. Do you have emergency lights? They need to be inspected regularly. If you have things to protect people, they need to function, test them regularly don’t just trust that they will work during an emergency.
■ Provide lighting for exit routes adequate for employees with normal vision.
blocked-fire-exitIf the lights in your business go out, do you have emergency lighting and is it adequate? You can actually purchase emergency lights that won’t be obtrusive, and blend in with your decor.
■ Keep exit route doors free of decorations or signs that obscure the visibility of exit route doors
We all love to have our business looking great on the inside, decorations, mentions of upcoming events, and such, but keep these things off emergency exit doors, keep the doors easily identifiable for there purpose.
■ Post signs along the exit access indicating the direction of travel to the nearest exit and exit discharge if that direction is not immediately apparent. Also, the line-of-sight to an exit sign must be clearly visible at all times.
Easiest way to check this, is stand in the middle of your business, can you clearly see an emergency exit? If not, you need to add a sign pointing towards the nearest exit. Now move around your business, do you see exits from all the different vantage points? Don’t forget store rooms, back offices and such.
■ Mark doors or passages along an exit access that could be mistaken for an exit “Not an Exit” or with a sign identifying its use (such as “Closet”).
Is your emergency exit the last door on the left, down a hallway? All other doors need to be marked as “not an exit”.
■ Install “EXIT” signs in plainly legible letters.
blocked emergency exitNo fancy script, no plain arrows, simple to read block letters.
■ Renew fire-retardant paints or solutions often enough to maintain their fire-retardant properties.
Did you have a wall painted with fire retardant paint to aid in an evacuation? Did you know even the manufacturer recommends refreshing it every couple of years? Don’t forget little maintenance like that.
■ Maintain exit routes during construction, repairs, or alterations.
Doing some renovations? Keep your exit routes clear, keep the signs visible, or offer secondary routes.
■ Provide an emergency alarm system to alert employees, unless employees can promptly see or smell a fire or other hazard in time to provide adequate warning to them.
Honestly, the baseline standard here, if your business is larger that a single room, you need some form of emergency alarm system.

I hope you understand these guidelines, use them as a baseline for your own emergency exits and exit routes. Check out your own business, or contact me and I will happily discuss setting up an audit, or just answer some of your questions.

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