In case of an emergency, easily accessible and clearly marked exits can save lives. It’s no surprise that over 80 percent of manufacturing plant managers cite “getting employees out of a facility during an emergency” as a top safety concern. Fortunately, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) provides clear and easy-to-follow guidelines regarding routes of egress and exit sign requirements to help businesses protect their employees.
OSHA Exit Route Requirements
An exit route, sometimes referred to as a “means of egress,” is a continuous and unobstructed path of exit travel from any point within a workplace to a place of safety. You can review the complete OSHA exit route requirements in sections 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 the full list of rules and regulations to ensure facility compliance, take note of these key considerations for exit routes:
- Exit routes must be permanent.
- The number of required exits will vary based on the building’s occupancy.
- Each exit must lead to a street, refuge area, open space, or other area with outdoor access.
- Each exit must be protected with a self-closing fire door and must remain unlocked from the inside.
- Exit routes must be unobstructed, well-lit, and properly labeled.
- An emergency alarm system must be present and operational.
- Routes must be maintained during any construction or repair work that occurs at the workplace.
It’s worth noting that even if you rent your commercial space, you are still responsible for maintaining OSHA-compliant exit routes. If necessary, contact the building owner to make structural changes that help ensure employee safety.
OSHA Exit Sign Requirements
A key component of adequate exit routes is implementing OSHA-compliant exit signs. Visual organization is very important during emergency situations and having appropriate cues present to direct employees to a safe path during an unexpected emergency will save lives.
Adhere to all OSHA exit sign requirements, including these:
- Clearly visible signs should be posted along the exit route to direct people to emergency exits.
- The exit itself must remain unobstructed and must be labeled with an “Exit” sign.
- Any door that does not lead to an exit route—especially if it is located near an exit and could be mistaken as such—should be labeled “Not an Exit” or list its specific use (for example, “To Basement” or “Closet”).
- Each exit must be labeled with a sign that has the word “Exit” in a legible font, at least six inches (15.2 cm) high, in a distinctive color, and illuminated to at least 54 lux. Illumination can come from a reliable light source or signs can be self-luminous or electroluminescent with a minimum luminance surface value of at least .06 footlamberts (0.21 cd/m2).
Choose Compliant Exit Signs and Pathway Markers
Exit signs, pathway markers, and other facility signage are integral to ensuring OSHA compliance and protecting worker safety. When adding or updating the visual cues within your facility—whether for exit signs or other safety messaging—ensure you’re selecting options that comply with OSHA requirements. In some instances, font and color standards apply—and some of these are listed above—but in other cases, simply complying with messaging and visibility rules meets the requirements.
Consider the following facility signs that support safety initiatives and adhere to OSHA requirements when developing your workplace safety plan:
- Exit Route Signs: Label each emergency exit route with easily visible and OSHA-compliant Exit floor signs.
- Emergency Exit Door Labels: Label emergency exits and alert occupants to automatic alarms with an appropriate “Emergency Exit Only” sign.
- Exit Route Markers: In a large facility, it can be difficult to find the exits. Ensure occupants can always find their way out by strategically placing directional arrow floor markers and photoluminescent tape throughout the warehouse, especially in low-light areas.
- Reminders to Keep Emergency Exits Clear: Prevent employees from inadvertently leaving equipment and tools in front of emergency exits with pre-cut door marking kits, door-swing floor markers, or “Keep Fire Exit Clear” signs to ensure each exit remains unobstructed and help avoid costly OSHA citations.
- Assembly Points Labels: In an emergency, employees may be exiting through multiple emergency exits. Help ease the chaos and ensure all staff and visitors are safely out of the building by labeling Assembly Points with appropriate floor signs.
- Non-Exit Door Markers: Ensure building occupants can easily distinguish between exits and other doors by labeling non-exits with appropriate custom signs.
Overall, the goal of these requirements is to ensure that exit signs are highly visible and easily recognizable so that employees and members of the public can quickly and safely evacuate the workplace in the event of an emergency. Also consider other requirements for exit route safety and labeling, such as National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) guidelines for exit routes and egress. NFPA and OSHA standards work together to create a safer workplace.
Exit signs and egress pathway floor markers are truly are lifesaving visual cues. We design and manufacture required visual cues for emergency situations, and can also work with you to create custom floor marking tape and signs with individualized messaging to help you meet your targeted safety goals. Find more ideas to improve safety in your facility in our Resource Center.