What are exit routes?

An exit route, as defined by OSHA, is a continuous and unobstructed path of exit from any point within a facility to somewhere safe. Exit routs consist of three separate parts:

  • An exit access is the section of the route that directly leads to an exit.
  • The exit is separated from all other areas to provide employees a safe way to get to the exit discharge.
  • The exit discharge is the pathway that leads to an established refuge and/or an open space outside the building.

Exit Route Requirements

OSHA has several requirements that pertain to emergency exit routes located in 29 CFR 1910.36, these include:

  • Exit routes must be a permanent fixture within the workplace
  • Exit discharges must be large enough to hold the building’s occupants and must lead to a refuge area, walkway, street, or a general open space
  • The exit must be separated by fire resistant materials
  • The openings to an exit must be limited and contain a self-closing fire door
  • The number of exit routes must be adequate for the amount of people in the building, two or more is the normal while one exit can be acceptable as long as all employees can get out quickly and safely
  • The exit door must be unlocked
  • A side-hinged exit door must be used
  • The capacity of an exit route must be adequate
  • The ceiling of an exit route must be seven feet and six inches tall
  • The exit access must be at least twenty-eight inches wide and be sufficient enough to allow the maximum permitted occupant load
  • Outdoor exit routes are permitted as long as there are guardrails to protect unenclosed sides, a dead end that is no longer than twenty feet, covered in the event of snow and ice, and has smooth/level walkways.

Keeping exit routes clear is paramount to the safety of employees during an emergency situation. If they cannot get out in a timely manner, then some may sustain serious injuries or even be killed from the hazards. In many cases, visual communication such as signs and floor tape can help keep these areas clear and visibly mark where these routes exist.

Overall, as long as OSHA’s regulations pertaining to exit routes are followed, then employees will have a greater chance at coming out unscathed.


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