Get outta here!

 

How would you escape from the workplace in an emergency? Do you know where all the exits are in case your first choice is unusable? Are you sure doors will be unlocked and the exit access – such as a hallway – will not be blocked during a fire, explosion, or other crisis? Being prepared and aware can keep you safe and uninjured if an emergency were to happen. 

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An exit route is a continuous and unobstructed path of egress from any point within a workplace to a place of safety. 

By OSHA regulation an exit route consists of three parts: 

  • Exit access – The portion of an exit route that leads to an exit. 
  • Exit – The 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 – The part of the exit route that leads directly outside or to a street, walk-way, refuge area, public way, or open space with access to the outside. 

Normally, a workplace must have at least two exit routes to permit prompt evacuation of employees and other building occupants during an emergency. More than two exits are required, however, if the number of employees, size of the building, or arrangement of the workplace will not allow employees to evacuate safely. 

Exit routes must be located as far away as practical from each other in case one is blocked by fire or smoke. There is one exception, however, if the number of employees, the size of the building, its occupancy, or the arrangement of the workplace allows all employees to evacuate safely during an emergency, just one exit route is permitted. 

What are the requirements for exits? 

Exits must be separated by fire-resistant materials – that is, a one-hour fire-resistance rating if the exit connects three or fewer stories, and a two-hour fire resistance rating if the exit connects more than three floors. Also, exits are permitted to have only those openings necessary to allow access to the exit from occupied areas of the workplace or to the exit discharge. Openings must be protected by a self-closing approved fire door that remains closed or automatically closes in an emergency. 

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What are the maintenance,
safeguarding, and operational features for
exit routes? 

  • Keep exit routes free of explosive or highly flammable furnishings and other decorations. 
  • 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. 
  • Ensure that exit routes are unobstructed, such as by materials, equipment, locked doors, or dead-end corridors. 
  • Ensure that safeguards designed to protect employees in an emergency remain in good working order. 
  • Keep exit route doors free of decorations or signs that obscure the visibility of exit route doors. 
  • Provide lighting for exit routes adequate for employees with normal vision. 
  • 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. 
  • Mark doors or passages along an exit access that could be mistaken for an exit with signs such as “Not an Exit” or with a sign identifying its use. 
  • Install EXIT signs in plainly legible letters. 
  • Renew fire-retardant paints or solutions often enough to maintain their fire-retardant properties. 
  • Maintain exit routes during construction, repairs, or alterations. 
  • Provide an emergency alarm system 

 

Look for more information in this edition of Wachs Weekly!