Emergency Egress

It’s well known that after John Wilkes Booth shot President Lincoln, he leaped from the President’s box to the stage where he tripped and fell, breaking his leg. What’s not well known is what he tripped over. According to some first-hand accounts, as John Wilkes Booth was trying to make his exit, he tripped over the American flag.

Egress is the way out of a room or building. In the event of an emergency, egress sounds like a simple thing. Leave the building! However, from the viewpoint of OSHA, egress involves a number of very critical requirements. Imagine needing to get out of a strange building in a hurry and having doors blocked, not well-lit or not marked as an exit.

In order to comply with some of the requirements of Subpart E of the OSHA standards, ask yourself these questions:

  • Are all exits marked with an “EXIT” sign and illuminated by a reliable light source?
  • Are exit signs provided with the word “EXIT” in lettering at least 6-inches high and the stroke of the lettering at least ¾-inch wide?
  • Are exit doors side-hinged?
  • Are all exits kept free of obstructions and unlocked on the inside?
  • Are doors, passageways, or stairways that are not exits or access to exits–and which could be mistaken for exits–appropriately marked “NOT AN EXIT” or some other words indicating actual use?
  • Are the directions to exits, when not immediately apparent, marked with visible signs and well-lit?
  • Are at least two means of egress provided from elevated platforms, pits, or rooms where the absence of a second exit would increase the risk of injury from hot, poisonous, corrosive, suffocating, flammable, or explosive substances?
  • Are there sufficient exits to permit prompt escape in case of emergency?
  • Are special precautions taken to protect employees during construction and repair operations?
  • Are all exit routes arranged to avoid high-hazard areas?
  • Is the number of exits from each floor of a building and the number of exits from the building itself appropriate for the building occupancy load?
  • Where ramps are used as part of required exiting from a building, is the ramp slope limited to 1 vertical inch per horizontal foot?
  • Where exiting will be through frameless glass doors, glass exit doors, storm doors, etc., are the doors fully tempered and meet the safety requirements for human impact?

Do not rely solely on this list. Always refer to the OSHA standard and applicable NFPA and other local fire and building code requirements when determining compliance for your facility.

This article was originally published in the August 2006 issue of the Journal of Environmental Management-Arizona. Ideas for stories come from a variety of sources, including online news and Richard Hawk of Making Safety Fun.