Take time to learn emergency exit routes at work

  • Published
  • By Sgt. Kevin Tuskey
  • 88th Air Base Wing Safety Office

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, OH -- With buildings being repurposed and workspace at a premium, it’s common for emergency exit routes to be overlooked or forgotten.

The unfortunate reality is that waiting until a real-world scenario to assess and test your facility’s emergency exit routes could be a fatal mistake

Personnel should be trained on the Emergency Action Plan upon appointment to a workplace, as well as when it’s revised or an employee’s responsibilities change under the plan. It is important to know your evacuation route and ensure there are not any facility changes that would limit or affect your ability to evacuate.

The following information will assist you with assessing workplace exit routes.

What is an exit route?

An exit route is a continuous and unobstructed path to the exit from any point within a workplace to a safe location. An exit route consists of three parts:

  • Exit access – portion of an exit route that leads to an exit
  • Exit – portion of an exit route generally separated from other areas to provide a protected way of travel to the exit discharge
  • Exit discharge – part of the exit route that leads directly outside or to a street, walkway, refuge area, public way or open space.

Design, construction requirements

  • Exit discharges must lead directly outside or to a street, walkway, refuge area, public way or open space. These areas must be large enough to accommodate building occupants likely to use the exit route.
  • Exit-route doors must be unlocked from the inside. They must be free of devices or alarms that could restrict exit-route use if the device or alarm fails.
  • Ensure that exit routes are unobstructed by materials, equipment, locked doors or dead-end corridors.
  • Provide lighting for exit routes that is adequate for employees with normal vision.
  • Keep exit-route doors free of decorations or signs that obscure visibility.
  • Post signs along an exit access indicating directions to the nearest exit and exit discharge if that’s not immediately apparent. Also, the line-of-sight to an exit sign must be clearly visible at all times.
  • Mark doors or passages along an exit access that could be mistaken for an exit. The sign should include “not an exit” or identify its use, such as “closet.”
  • Maintain exit routes during construction, repairs or alterations.

As personnel return to offices and workplaces, take the time to walk your emergency exit routes and ensure they meet Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirements. More importantly, it will ensure everyone a safe evacuation if that time comes.

For more information about emergency exits, visit OSHA’s website at www.osha.gov.