Safety
OSHA, Emergency Exits, & Procedures

Neon Green Exit Sign

School Days, Fire Drills

One of my earliest memories from elementary school was deeply concentrating on my school work at my desk (at least some of the time), when suddenly being startled by a loud alarm. My classmates and I would jump up in excitement as we all meshed together in a quiet single file line, and our teacher would lead us out of the nearest exit into a parking lot on a nice Spring day. We would stand outside quietly until the principal would walk outside and give us a quick wave of her hand, and to our dismay we would all march back into school with our heads down to pick up right where we left off in the rest of the day’s school work.

In hindsight, the fun and excitement of a fire drill as a child was in actuality a well thought out systematic process designed to help students and staff become aware of how to exit the building in the quickest, easiest, and safest way possible. The importance of these emergency procedures are not only important in our childhood school days, they should also play an essential role in the workplace. In fact, OSHA clearly defines what is expected when exiting a building during an emergency.

Exit Routes

Under most circumstances, a workplace must have at least 2 exit routes depending on the number of employees, size of the building, or arrangement of the workplace. The locations of the exits must be practical in case one of the exits is blocked in an emergency and must be permanent. An “Exit” sign should be installed at the location and consist of plain legible letters. The exit routes must be separated from the workplace by fire resistant materials and should be free from obstructions, flammable materials, and any equipment that would prevent employees from utilizing them.

Emergency Exits and Fire doors

Emergency Exit Doors

Emergency exit routes must be protected by an approved self-closing fire door that remains closed and will automatically close upon exiting during an emergency. In addition, these doors must unlock from the inside and be free of any mechanism that would restrict or slow employees of exiting the building. The emergency exit doors should also be free of decorations and signs that would obscure visibility. The remaining doors in the building located along the exit route that can be mistaken for an emergency exit should be marked “not an exit” or with a sign identifying the purpose to avoid any potential confusion during an emergency.

Emergency Action Plans (EAP)

Although employers are required to have an emergency action plan (EAP) only when the OSHA standard requires, it is strongly recommended that all employers have an EAP.

An emergency action plan should contain the following at a minimum:

  • Procedures for reporting fires and other emergencies
  • Procedures for emergency evacuation, including the type of evacuation and exit route assignments
  • Procedures for employees who stay behind to continue critical plant operations
  • Procedures to account for all employees after evacuation
  • Procedures for employees performing rescue or medical duties
  • Name or job title of employees to contact for detailed plan information
  • Alarm system to alert workers

In addition, you must designate and train employees to assist in a safe and orderly evacuation of other employees. You must also review the emergency action plan with each employee covered when the following occur:

  • Plan is developed or an employee is assigned initially to a job
  • Employee’s responsibilities under the plan changes

Learn more about how ICC Compliance Center can help you prepare for an OSHA audit here or call 888.442.9628 in the USA and 888.977.4834 in Canada.

Resources:

https://www.osha.gov/OshDoc/data_General_Facts/emergency-exit-routes-factsheet.pdf

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/3183.html

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