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Emergency Exits – Don’t Block Your Path to Safety

- October 1, 2019 by Paula Tetrault (View all posts by Paula)

I often have clients tell me, “We keep our exits clear,” at the beginning of a site tour only to find them blocked, locked, lined with gasoline containers, or with an exit path that is only 24 inches wide. That is a recipe for disaster!

OSHA regulation 1910.36 (g)(2) states:  “An exit access must be at least 28 inches (71.1 cm) wide at all points. Where there is only one exit access leading to an exit or exit discharge, the width of the exit and exit discharge must be at least equal to the width of the exit access.”

Consider what the inside of the building would look or feel like in emergency conditions. There is no lighting, and the area is filling with smoke. An alarm is screeching, but you can barely see. You know you need to get out, but all you have to rely on is emergency lighting.

Checking exit routes and exit doors should be included in your weekly building inspection checklist. It is critical that these paths are unobstructed at all times because while emergencies are not planned, you should have a rehearsed plan in place to handle them. It would be best if you considered each of the following:

  • Does the emergency lighting work? Test it during each inspection.
  • Do you have employees who work second or third shift who could not use the sunlight from the windows to navigate? Could they locate an exit in the dark?
  • Are there any protruding objects in the exit path?
  • Are there any tripping hazards?
  • Does the exit door open outward?
  • Is the exit door adequately marked?
  • Is the exit door free from obstructions on the opposite side?
  • Are there any boxes, parts, material, trash or pallets blocking the door?
  • Has the snow and ice been removed?

Regular checks of emergency exits to make sure they are clear at all times will ensure employees can successfully exit the building in the event of an emergency.

Reference:

29 CFR 1910.36 (g)(2); Means of Egress.” Osha.gov. U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration, 8 June, 2011. Web. 28 Aug. 2013.