What Every Business Owner Needs to Know to Keep Fire Exits Safe

August 15, 2014

Many people do not know how they would escape their workplaces if an emergency arose. They are often not aware of where the exits are, what to do if doors are locked, where they should try to go first or what to do if some areas are too crowded. There are several important questions to know the answers to when it comes to this type of safety issue.

What Is An Exit Route?
This is an unobstructed and continuing exit path that will lead to safety. There are three components to an exit route, which include the part of the route that leads to an exit, the part that provides protected travel and the discharge point that leads to a sidewalk or similar refuge area.

How Many Exit Routes Are There?
Workplaces must normally have at least two exit routes to enable quick evacuation of the people in it. If two exits will not be sufficient for safe evacuation, more must be made. They must be spaced apart properly in case one is blocked by smoke or fire. One route may be sufficient for some very small buildings.

Are There Additional Construction Requirements For Exit Routes?
Every exit route has to be a permanent part of the workplace, and discharge points must lead to streets, public ways, walkways or similar refuge areas. In addition to this, the refuge areas have to be large enough to accommodate all building occupants. Exit doors must be unlocked from the inside and not have alarm devices that will restrict them from opening if the devices fail. If there are stairs that go beyond the level with the discharge, they must have partitions or doors to indicate which way to go to exit the building. Doors that connect rooms to exit routes must have side hinges and swing out toward the direction of the exit. For every floor they serve, exit routes must be able to support the maximum load for occupants. Exit route access should be 28 inches wide, and ceilings must be at least seven feet and six inches high. No objects in the exit route should reduce the width, but it is best to avoid putting objects in an exit route altogether. The same applies for outdoor exit routes, which must meet additional safety criteria for weather-related and height hazards.

What Are The Requirements For Exits?
All exits must have fire-resistant materials separating them. This means if the exits connect three or less levels, they must have one-hour fire resistance ratings. For more than three levels, materials must have two-hour resistance ratings. Exits are only allowed to have openings needed to give access to the exit from areas of the workplace that are occupied. Self-closing approved doors must be used to protect them.

What Are Exit Route Maintenance, Operational And Safeguarding Features?
Do not store flammable or explosive items in exit routes, and no items should not obstruct vision. There should be no equipment or locked doors blocking exits. Safeguards should be kept in good condition, and lighting should be provided in pathways. Signs should be posted along exit routes directing people to safety. Exit signs should always be clearly visible, and doors that are not exits should be marked as such. Always maintain exits during construction. When painting, use fire-retardant paints.

Minimum Requirements For Emergency Plans
If employers have 10 or fewer workers, they can communicate their fire safety plans orally. However, OSHA has rules for larger workforces. The following are necessary components of an emergency plan:

- Procedures for reporting emergencies and evacuation.
- Procedures to account for occupants after evacuation.
- Procedures for people who stay behind to continue operations.
- Procedures for employees performing emergency medical care.
- Alarm systems to alert workers of emergency situations.
- Names and job titles of workers who will help execute the plan.

In addition to this, employers must train the designated workers how to help execute a safety plan if and when the time comes. They must also be retrained if the plan changes or if an employee's specific duties change. To learn more, discuss concerns with an agent.

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