U.S. regulations on emergency exit signage, building safety, and exit routes

EHS Global Moments: U.S. Emergency Exits

May 6th, 2019

The world is full of environment, health and safety regulations, with new ones being added every day. Most of these requirements focus on manufacturing operations, but a surprising number of regulations apply to offices and other non-manufacturing, lower-risk operations! Check in with us once a month for our new blog series: EHS Global Moments, where we highlight a country-specific EHS regulation applicable to non-manufacturing operations, organized by place, topic, or theme.

Creating clearly marked emergency exits can be a pivotal factor in the success of an emergency evacuation. The last thing anyone wants to think about when they are attempting to leave a building is whether the door they are opening leads outdoors or to a closet. OSHA has clearly defined requirements (Emergency Exit Routes, CFR 1910.36 – Design and construction requirements for exit routes) that spell out the details of workplace exit route design, safety features, and construction requirements necessary to ensure safety during an evacuation. Read our summary of the requirements below:

Requirements for Exits

  • Usually, a workplace must have at least two exit routes for evacuation. However, if there are more employees or a larger building, it may be necessary to create more exit routes.
  • Exits must be separate from the workplace by fire resistant materials.
  • Every emergency exit must have an “EXIT” sign clearly visible about it at all times.

Safety Features for Exit Routes

  • Keep exit routes free of explosives or highly flammable furnishings or decorations.
  • Create exit routes that allow employees to avoid high-hazard areas.
  • Mark doors or passages along an exit access that could be mistaken for an exit with “Not an Exit” signs, or with a sign identifying it’s use (e.g. “Closet,” or “Storage room”).
  • Maintain exit routes during construction, repairs, or alterations to the workplace.

Design and Construction Requirements

  • Exit routes must be permanent parts of the workplace.
  • Exits must lead directly outside or to a street.
  • Exit doors must be large enough to accommodate people likely to use the exit route.
  • Exit route doors must unlock from the inside. They must be free of devices or alarms that could restrict use of the exit route if the device or alarm fails.
  • Exit routes must have ceilings at least 7 ft., 6 in. high.

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