Visual cues must be used for full compliance with emergency exit requirements—and floor marking tape and floor signs can help you meet those conditions. Floors, walls, stairways, and doors must be clearly marked to improve communication and safety both daily and in emergency situations. Explore these tips for marking emergency routes and exits using floor marking tape and permanent floor signs.

What Is an Exit Route?

OSHA defines an exit route as “a continuous and unobstructed path of exit travel from any point within a workplace to a place of safety.”⁽¹⁾ A compliant exit route consists of three parts:

  • Exit access, which leads to the emergency exit
  • Exit, which is a path of travel that leads to the exit discharge
  • Exit discharge, which is the end of the exit route and leads outdoors

Emergency exits must comply with OSHA’s regulations, which include—but are not limited to—these requirements.

  • Number of exit routes: There must be at least two separate, permanent exit routes—or more, if required based on the number of people within the facility. These routes must be maintained even when construction or renovations are happening.
  • Emergency signage: Exit routes and exit doors must be labeled, any doors that do not lead to an exit must be clearly marked (example, “Not an Exit,” “Closet,” or “No Outlet”).
  • Exit path width: The exit access must be at least 28 inches wide at all points—or wider, to comply with ADA requirements—and no objects may obstruct the exit path.
  • Ceiling height: The exit route ceiling height must be at least 7 ½ feet (90 inches).
  • Exit discharge: At the end of the exit route, the exit discharge must lead directly to a safe, open space that’s either outside or offers immediate outside access.

How Do You Mark an Emergency Exit?

OSHA has specific requirements for marking emergency exits, but additional steps may be taken to improve communication and reduce confusion along emergency exit routes. With a combination of required and optional visual and physical cues, you can improve overall safety during an emergency evacuation.

Required Visual Cues for Exit Routes

  • EXIT signs must be placed at exit points and be easily visible.
  • Fire Exit/Keep Clear signs offer a visual reminder that exits and exit routes must not be obstructed—and our pre-cut floor marking kits provide clear instructions.
  • Post arrows, footprints, lines with text and graphics, or other safety markings along the entire exit route to indicate the required path of travel toward the nearest exit or exit discharge.
  • Exit signs must be clearly visible along the whole exit route—regardless of floor markings or other signage.

Additional Exit Route Floor Markings

While no items should block the exit route, and minimum ceiling height is designated by OSHA, obstructions near the route may be marked for better visibility to help prevent injury while traveling to the exit route. Hazards such as low clearance areas, elevation changes, trip hazards, or other obstacles can be labeled with tape or signs displaying text or graphic warnings.

Glow-in-the-dark tape can improve visibility: Markings on the edges of ramps or along steps in a stairwell bring attention to changes in elevation, preventing trips or falls. Lines of photoluminescent tape applied to floors and walls can aid in navigation in case of smoke, which may obscure other visuals.

Non-slip or anti-skid floor markings help prevent slip, trip, and fall accidents. Non-slip floor tape is ideal to increase traction on slippery surfaces, especially in emergency exit areas such as stairwells. Outdoor-rated non-slip tape can improve traction in areas where water or snow may create hazards.

No hazardous materials, supplies, equipment, or trash may block the exit route. Improve organization and prevent these items from crossing into the exit route when you apply floor marking tape to designate parking areas and storage space for often-used equipment such as forklifts or hand trucks. Lean and 5S methods help improve organization, which can likewise improve safety.

Pavement markings may be used in outdoor spaces where floor marking tape may not be durable enough. Mark emergency assembly points, designate areas for use by emergency vehicles only, provide directional cues with arrows or footprint-shaped markings, or create other emergency messages in parking areas.

Required Physical Barriers for Exit Routes

Physical barriers prevent people from overlooking visual cues, for example in areas where a stairway continues beyond the exit discharge. To prevent people from continuing down the stairwell, partitions or doors are a physical signal to accompany any signage for the exit discharge. Outdoor exit routes must have guardrails in place in fall hazard areas and may require a roof or other covering to prevent snow and ice build-up in the exitway.

While compliance relies on more than floor markings and visual cues alone, having an Emergency Action Plan, clearly marked exit routes, and physical barriers improve communication in case of an evacuation. Follow all regulations for emergency exits, and explore our Resource Center for additional information on visual communication and industrial facility safety.