Emergency exits in the workplace are the last thing we think about if we have a pressing deadline, if we need to organize a big event or if our business is growing, We often don’t think of them when we want to increase our space to accommodate few more customers by knocking down or blocking the emergency exit.
Being preoccupied with daily tasks and meeting targets, as well as worrying about aesthetics and minimizing spend on exits more than looking after health and safety is exactly why it’s easy for office or building managers to neglect emergency exits.
Even though emergency exits to different working spaces need careful evaluation to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations, this article will give you a general idea about the importance of the compliance with requirements for emergency exits and their maintenance.
Every workplace should have an emergency plan and protocols posted in different places and common areas so that employees are familiar with all the different emergency exits in the workplace. It’s important that emergency exercises take place regularly so that employees are up-to-date with procedures they must follow during an emergency.
For the purpose of this article, it is important to understand the distinction between an exit route and an exit.
The exit route is the path of exit travel from any point within the workplace to a place of safety, whereas exit is only a part of that route. The “exit” bit is usually separated from other workplace space that provides protected travel to the exit discharge. The exit discharge is the part that leads directly outside or to a street, walkway, refuge area, public way, or open space with access to the outside.
According to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), there are some basic general requirements that apply to emergency exit doors for commercial buildings, public buildings, as well as other workplaces. These requirements state that exit doors must be kept unlocked from the inside and free from devices or alarms that require special knowledge and that could restrict use of the exit if that device or alarm fails.
Also, all exit doors must open outwards and must not be revolving or sliding. Side-hinged exit doors must swing in the direction of exit travel.
Exit doors should be easily visible (and not obscured by furnishing). Doors that aren’t exits must be marked with an appropriate such as a sign saying “Not and Exit” or “Terrace” so that it is not mistaken for an exit door. All exit doors must be approved by a recognized testing laboratory.
Once a workplace has established an Emergency Exit Plan and has complied with all the requirements of marking and constructing exit routes and exits, it is important that these are cared for and properly maintained so that they serve their initial purpose.
Most importantly, exit routes must be kept free from all clutter, furniture or other barriers such as flammable materials, explosives or other decorations. They should have the adequate lighting and width (usually 28 inches wide) at all points. Exit routes should also have signs throughout in order to show how to get to the nearest exit.
Exits should be marked with the sign “Exit” written in a legible way. Exits must be easily visible, lit with light with a reliable source and a distinctive color.
It’s easy to forget about the exit routes during construction or alterations, which is very dangerous because there is no rule when an emergency could happen.
Safeguards designed to protect employees must be kept in good working order. Fire-retardant paints or solutions need to be renewed regularly in order to maintain their fire-retardant properties.
All employees should be aware of the alarm system in place and should be able to differentiate between the sounds of the alarm to determine the threat (fire, bomb or incident).
The refuge area that the exit leads to must be large enough to accommodate all building occupants.
While this is not an exhaustive list of requirements for emergency exits and emergency exit doors, it is a brief reminder of their importance and why we should care about them.
Depending on the size of the workspace, the number of employees and taking into consideration the sensitivity of this topic, managers should give careful considerations to the health and safety rules and regulations while designing business emergency plans.
Get this full guide in PDF format, plus other great security content from Kisi. We're offering this guide as a free download. You will also be signed up to get content from the Kisi blog.Download Guide