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 means of egress from a building  consists of three elements:

  • 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

What Requirements Must Exit Routes Meet?

Emergency exits must comply with OSHA regulations, which include—but are not limited to—these five requirements:

  1. 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 means of egress must be maintained even during construction or renovations.
  2. Emergency Signage: Exit routes and exit doors must be labeled, and any doors that do not lead to an exit must be clearly marked (example, “Not an Exit,” “Closet,” or “No Outlet”).
  3. Exit Path Width: The minimum opening width for egress is 28 inches, and exit routes must be at least this wide—or wider—at all points to comply with ADA requirements. No objects may obstruct the exit path.
  4. Ceiling Height: The ceiling height along the entire exit route must be at least 7 ½ feet (90 inches).
  5. Exit Discharge: At the end of the exit route, the exit discharge must lead directly to a safe, open space that is either outside or offers immediate access to the building’s exterior.

How Do You Mark an Emergency Exit?

OSHA standard 1910.36 addresses specific requirements for designing, constructing, and marking emergency exit routes in a building, but additional steps may be taken to improve communication and reduce confusion along the path of egress. 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

According to OSHA rules for egress, emergency exits must have certain visual cues in order to be considered compliant.

  • 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. Our pre-cut floor marking kits provide clear instructions.
  • Arrows, footprints, lines with text and graphics, or other safety markings along the entire exit route can 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

The above list outlines required cues for emergency exits according to OSHA standards, but additional signage can improve communication and clarity around egress routes. Consider these optional floor marking ideas: 

  • Mark obstructions near the route for better visibility and to help prevent injury while traveling to the exit route. Hazards such as low clearance areas, elevation changes, or other obstacles can be labeled with tape or signs displaying text or graphic warnings.
  • Glow-in-the-dark tape can improve visibility along an exit route: 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 along emergency exit routes. Non-slip floor tape is ideal to increase traction on slippery surfaces, especially in stairwells. Use outdoor-rated non-slip tape to improve traction in areas where water or snow may create hazards.
  • Improve organization and prevent hazardous materials, supplies, equipment, or trash  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.

Physical Barrier Requirements 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 serve as a physical signal that accompanies any signage for the exit discharge. Outdoor exit routes must have guardrails in fall hazard areas and may require a roof or other covering to prevent the build-up of snow and ice in the exitway.

While compliance relies on more than floor markings and visual cues alone, having an Emergency Action Plan, clearly marked means of egress, and physical barriers can 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.