Many businesses do not manage their emergency exit signs and doors very well. I see this over and over again in facilities I visit. Historically, some of the worst catastrophes in our nation’s history have been related to emergency exit issues. Let’s look at some ways that you can make sure you’re managing your exits appropriately so you don’t get fined, or worse, have unnecessary fatalities following an emergency!
- Ensure your exit routes are clear and doors aren’t blocked: Do you walk past all your doors regularly and make sure there is nothing blocking them? You need at least 3 feet of clearance, doors should swing outward, and make sure there is nothing blocking them outside, as well, including snow.
- Door latches cannot require special knowledge to operate and the door should be side-hinged (not sliding or roll-up doors). This means you cannot use latches, deadbolts, or typically anything other than a push bar or doorknob to open the door. If a room is filled with smoke and people are panicking, they are unlikely to be able to figure out how to unlatch a door or work tricky handles or other devices.
- Emergency exit signs and lights must be tested regularly. Do you have somebody go around and test your lights monthly? If not, you are at risk! The batteries in these lights do not last forever. Every month, they should be tested for at least 30-seconds. And at least once a year, must be tested for 90-minutes. When you test them, the emergency light should come on and stay lit. If you push the button or turn off the power and the light does not come on, the battery is dead and will not operate the light during a real emergency. You can do this several ways: hold the little test button in (probably not ideal for the 90-minute test!), have them on a dedicated circuit breaker so you can turn off the breaker and ensure the lights come on for the required time, or replace them with modern lights that have a self-test function (these will automatically do the self-test and a light will come on indicating if they passed or failed the test). If you do not test your lights, building occupants can easily become disoriented and trapped or injured by walking into something.
- Do not store hazards near emergency exits. This can include such common hazards as keeping snowblower gas in an entry vestibule, placing propane and other compressed gas cylinders near an exit, or storing products like paints and thinners near an exit door.
There are more requirements for exits, but these are the main points. If you want to know more, you can find the requirements in OSHA’s requirement at 1910.36 and 1910.37. OSHA also refers to NFPA 101 for exit requirements. You can get free access to this document by creating an account at NFPA.org. NFPA 101 Chapter 7 specifically refers to emergency egress requirements. There are many more requirements, but these items are the basic ones I see frequently. As always, if you need any help with our emergency exits or other safety topics, contact Provenio Consulting today! firstname.lastname@example.org