August Safety Topic: Exit Routes

All employers should ensure that there is a continuous and unobstructed path of exit from all areas of the worksite to a place of safety.  As defined by OSHA there are three components of an exit route.  These are: Exit access – portion of an exit route that leads to an exit.

Exit – portion of an exit route that is generally separated from other areas to provide a protected way of travel to the exit discharge.  Exit discharge – part of an exit route that leads directly outside or to a street, walkway, refuge area, public way, an open space with access to the outside.

The usual number of workplace exit routes is two so that evacuation can proceed promptly during an emergency.  However, more than two routes will be needed if two is not enough to allow prompt and safe exit because of the size or arrangement of the building or the number of employees.  If the workplace is a small building with only a few employees who can be evacuated promptly with just one exit route, then having one exit route is permitted.   When planning your exit routes remember that they should be as far away from each other as possible in case one of them becomes blocked by fire or smoke.

OSHA has design and construction requirements for exit routes.  For example, exit route doors must be unlocked from the inside, ceiling heights are required to be at least 7 feet 6 inches and width must be 28 inches at all points.  OSHA also has requirements for exits.  For instance, exits must be separated by fire resistant materials—that is, one-hour fire-resistance rating if the exit connects three or few stories and two-hour fire-resistance rating if the exit connects more than three floors.  OSHA also has listed maintenance, safeguarding, and operational features for exit routes.  Some examples are: ensuring that all exit routes are unobstructed such as by material, equipment, locked doors, or dead-end corridors and providing 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.

OSHA requires that signs be posted 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.

OSHA has many other requirements regarding exit routes, please refer to and 29CFR part 1910 Subpart L for more information.

Nothing above supersedes local, state or federal laws. Information is believed to be reliable but Canal HR makes no guarantee as to, and assumes no responsibility for the correctness, sufficiency or completeness of the above information and recommendations. Additional safety measures may be required in some circumstances.