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A 2014 Manufacturing USA study reported over 80 percent of the manufacturing plant managers surveyed said getting employees out of a facility during an emergency was a top concern, when asked what their top non-daily task safety risk concern was.

Our exit signs and exit pathway floor markers are some of our most in-demand products. These products are put to the test during emergency situations and truly are lifesaving products. We take our advocacy for workplace safety seriously and are always designing and manufacturing the most innovative visual cues for emergency situations.

Some of our most popular products relating to exit routes, exits and exit signs include our pre-cut kit to keep door areas clear of obstacles, exit safety sign, this sign that points the way to the exit door, point-of-assembly signs, keep fire exit clear signs and our door-swing floor-marker for keeping exit area clear. Visual organization is very important during emergency situations and having visual devices present to direct employees to a safe path during an unexpected emergency will save lives. Exit routes must abide by OSHA regulations and need to be well-thought out and designed. When OSHA issues citations related to exit routes, usually the infractions can be remedied with easy and inexpensive fixes. However, the best remedy is to fix these safety lapses BEFORE an OSHA citation.

In 2010 the Home Goods retail chain was fined over $200,000 for repeatedly not complying with regulations for exit routes. At a store in New York, inspectors found the exit routes were blocked by merchandise and equipment, one route was too narrow and an exit sign was missing. A similar citation was issued to Big Lots Stores Inc. in New York in 2013 because merchandise and pallets blocked exit routes. The store also failed to label exit routes and mark doors that could have been mistaken for exits. There were no injuries in either of these cases, but an emergency could have seriously endangered employees at these companies. Also, fines for violating regulations can significantly affect your bottom line.

FAQs to Know about Exits and Exit Routes

An Exit Route is a continuous and unobstructed path of exit travel from any point within a workplace to a place of safety.

An exit route has 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, walkway, refuge area, public way or open space with access to the outside.

Exit routes are sometimes referred to as “means of egress” and are covered under OSHA standards 1910.36 (“Design and construction requirements for exit routes”) and 1910.37 (“Maintenance, safeguards, and operational features for exit routes). While employers and safety managers should consult these regulations to make sure their facilities are fully compliant, the following is a list of general rules of exit routes:

  • Exit routes must be permanent.
  • There must be enough exit routes, which means two exits that are far enough from each other that both won’t be blocked by a fire or other hazard. Sometimes one exit is adequate, and sometimes three or more exits are needed depending on building occupancy.
  • Exits must lead to a street, refuge area, open space or other area with access to the outdoors.
  • Exit openings must be protected by self-closing fire doors (to ensure those using the exit stay safe).
  • Exit doors must be unlocked so they can be opened from the inside.
  • Any room connected to an exit route must have a side-hinged door that swings outward (if more than 50 people occupy the room).
  • An exit access must be at least 28 inches wide.
  • An exit must be 7.5 feet high.
  • Fire-resistant materials should protect exits – If the exit connects one, two or three stories, these materials should have a one-hour fire-resistance rating. If the exit connects more than three stories, a two-hour resistance rating is required.

It’s also interesting to note that employers who rent commercial space are still required to maintain a work environment with proper exit routes, and should consult building owners to make structural changes if necessary.

  • Exit routes require proper maintenance and you must make sure they have certain safety features. Some of the OSHA rules for exit routes and exit signs include:
  • Flammable furnishings and décor should be kept away from exit routes.
  • Exit routes should be unobstructed.
  • Exit routes should be well lit.
  • Exit doors shouldn’t be obscured by decorations.
  • Doors that are not exits but are located near exit access points should be labeled “Not an Exit” or labeled with their use (for example, “To Basement” or “Closet”).
  • Signs should be posted directing people to exits.
  • “EXIT” signs must be placed at exits.
  • Routes must be maintained during any construction or repair work that occurs at the workplace.
  • An emergency alarm system must be present and operational.
  • When a door doesn’t lead to an exit route, it should be labeled as such.

To help workplaces understand exit route requirements, OSHA offers an eTool for Evacuation Plans and Procedures. The organization’s Exit Route Demonstrations are particularly useful because they provide visuals of various types of violations so users can test their knowledge of exit route requirements.

NFPA guidelines for exit routes (NFPA 101 – Life Safety Code) also offer useful information that employers can consider. For example, the organization explains what types of illumination are acceptable for exit signs: external illumination sources, internal illumination and photo luminescent signs. OSHA considered NFPA requirements when designing its regulations, so those who follow NFPA guidelines will be in compliance with OSHA.