OSHA & Emergency Exits at Work
Emergency Exits in the Workplace
Just yesterday, another company was cited by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for multiple violations, including lack of emergency exits in the workplace. The company is East Syracuse, an automotive parts manufacturer in New York. OSHA proposed a penalty totaling to $145,350 for 65 alleged serious violations of safety standards. Two among these alleged violations are missing or unlit exit signs and blocked exits and aisles.
The Basics of Exits and Exit Routes
First, let’s get down to the basics and define these two terms. According to OSHA, an exit is “the part of the exit route that is a way out of the workplace”. Examples of an exit are a door, vestibule or stairwell. OSHA defines an exit route as “a continuous, unobstructed path from anywhere in a work area to the exit.”
A workplace must have two or more exit routes, depending on the number of people involved (check with local fire codes) and the layout and size of the work area. These exit routes must be permanent and always unobstructed.
The following are safety guidelines for exit and exit route safety:
- Exit doors must open from inside without keys, tools, or special knowledge.
- The exit doors must open outwards.
- Exit doors must not be revolving or sliding.
- A nationally recognized testing laboratory must approve all exit doors.
- Exit routes must have adequate emergency lighting.
- Line of sight to an exit sign must be clear.
- Each exit must have a distinctive sign that says “Exit” marked in letters that are at least 6 inches height with a ¾ inch stroke width.
- Exit doors must have no signs or furnishings that obscure their visibility.
- Mark a door with a sign saying “Not an Exit” or other appropriate signs in case it may be mistaken for an exit door.
- Every exit route must ve free of highly flammable furnishings, decorations, and other materials.
- An exit must lead directly outside or to a walkway, street, refuge area or open space with access outdoors.
- The space it leads to must be large enough to accommodate all building occupants.
- Exit routes must not pass through or into dead ends or lockable rooms.
- Every exit route must be able to handle the maximum occupant load for each floor it serves.
- An exit route must not decrease in size toward the exit.
- An exit route must be at least 6 feet, 8 inches high at all points and 28 inches wide at all points between handrails.
Things to Remember
It’s important to prepare emergency plans that show all the different emergency exits in the workplace. Plans must also give instructions about procedures employees must follow during an emergency. Remember, emergency plans must be posted in different work sites and common areas.
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