Home > Disaster Response, Emergency Response, Safety, Security > Exit Routes: Clearing the Way

Exit Routes: Clearing the Way

OSHA standards (29 CFR Part 1910) require emergency exit routes to be maintained in safe and fully operational condition at all times. This means you must:

  • Keep exit routes free of explosive or highly flammable furnishings and other decorations.
  • Arrange exit routes so employees will not have to travel toward a high-hazard area unless the path of travel is effectively shielded from the high-hazard area.
  • Ensure that exit routes are unobstructed such as by materials, equipment, locked doors, or dead-end corridors.
  • Ensure that safeguards designed to protect employees during an emergency remain in good working order.
  • Provide lighting for exit routes adequate for employees with normal vision.
  • Keep exit route doors free of decorations or signs that obscure the visibility of exit route doors.

You must also:

  • Post signs along the exit access indicating the direction of travel to the nearest exit and exit discharge if that direction is not immediately apparent.
  • Ensure that the line-of-sight to an exit sign is clearly visible at all times.
  • Mark doors or passages along an exit access that could be mistaken for an exit “Not an Exit” or with a sign identifying its use (such as Closet).
  • Install exit signs that are written in plainly legible letters.
  • Renew fire-retardant paints or solutions often enough to maintain their fire-retardant properties.
  • Maintain exit routes during construction, repairs, or alterations.

Of course, having compliant emergency exits is only part of emergency action. You also have to train employees to follow emergency procedures. Because most workplace emergencies happen with little or no warning, you need to ensure that workers know in advance what they should and should not do in case of an emergency. They may not have time during an emergency to read the company policy for the particular emergency they are facing.

Late summer can bring tornadoes, hurricanes, severe thunderstorms with power outages, and other severe weather conditions. Violent and/or terrorist actions can happen at any time, as can accidents leading to fires and other building emergencies. Ready or not, these events can happen, which is why it’s crucial for you to regularly conduct disaster training with your employees.

Examine, Review, Then Take Another Look

It’s also crucial to review your organization’s emergency action plan in general and in specific circumstances. Perhaps annually, go over the general principles that the disaster planning emergency plan covers in detail, such as:

  • Emergency escape procedures and routes for all departments and employees
  • Emergency response assignments to be followed by employees who remain in the facility to perform critical operations or shutdown operations before the plant is completely evacuated
  • Accounting for personnel outside the facility after the emergency evacuation has been completed
  • Rescue and medical duties for those employees who are designated to perform these vital emergency response tasks
  • Emergency reporting procedures for fires and other emergencies
  • Information resources, including the names and job titles of the people or departments to be contacted for further information or explanation of duties under the plan

At certain times of the year when specific dangers may occur, do a training session on how to be ready for that particular disaster. For example:

  • During tornado season, give your workers a session on how to respond to a tornado warning on the job or at home.
  • Spring is often a good time to train employees to cope with flooding, including driving on flooded roads.
  • If you’re located in an earthquake zone, any time of year is an appropriate time to discuss earthquake safety procedures.
  • Any time of year is also a good time to train in workplace violence prevention and response.

Turning Bad Into Good

When disasters happen elsewhere, use the awareness and interest generated by the news to ask “What if” questions of your employees? What if a similar event occurred where you are? How would you respond? Would you be ready?

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  1. June 20, 2013 at 12:01 AM

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