Emergency exits are probably not something you think about on a daily basis. We typically take them for granted until everyone’s running for one. Still, exit routes are so critical, OSHA has Design And Construction Requirements for how exit routes should be built (1910.36).
Businesses sometimes fall into the habit of allowing emergency exit routes to become cluttered. In some instances, exits become a catch-all room or where items go to hide because the space is rarely or never used. I often find during safety walk-throughs old ladders or equipment a company is not ready to throw away stacked near exit doors or in the stairwells.
Below is a list of ways recommended by OSHA to keep your exit routes operational. I encourage you to perform a walk-through of your emergency exits and routes, then address concerns immediately.
- Remove explosive or easily flammable items and decorations away from exit routes.
- Exit routes should keep employees away from high-hazard areas. The only exception is if they are well protected from any danger in the hazard area. (For example, a thick concrete wall.)
- Keep exit routes from becoming crowded with equipment, decorations, boxes, etc. These will block people from freely moving through the hallway and exit door.
- Emergency exit routes should avoid dead-end corridors that people may accidentally turn down.
- Ensure fire alarms, emergency exit doors and other emergency safeguards are in good working order.
- Routes should be well lit and hanging signs or decorations should not obscure exit signs. People should always be able to see an Exit sign no matter where they are in the building.
- Use directional signs to indicate where the nearest exit is.
- Use signs to mark non-emergency doors or passages placed along exit routes. This is to keep people from mistakenly thinking a door (such as a closet door) or hallway provides safe passage.
- If you use fire-retardant paints or solutions, refresh them as recommended as they become less effective over time.
- Maintain exit routes during construction, repairs, or alterations.
- Provide an emergency alarm system to alert employees of fire or other emergencies unless they can quickly see or smell a fire or other hazard.
With just a little bit of planning and general housekeeping, your facility can keep doors and routes ready for a quick exit. Taking pre-emptive steps now could be the deciding factor in how many lives are saved when disaster strikes.