OSHA has specific requirements for workplace exit routes to be used to evacuate employees in the event of an emergency. Here's a quick look at the highlights.
The general industry workplace rules for exit routes are located in the OSHA standards at 29 CFR 1910 Subpart E, and cover:
29 CFR 1910.34—Coverage and definitions
29 CFR 1910.35—Compliance with alternate exit-route codes
29 CFR 1910.36—Design and construction requirements for exit routes
29 CFR 1910.37—Maintenance, safeguards, and operational features for exit routes
OSHA says that employers who prefer to follow the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Standard 101, Life Safety Code (NFPA 101-[most current year]), or the International Fire Code, will be in compliance with OSHA requirements for the design, construction, and operational features of the exit routes standard (29 CFR 1910.34, 1910.36, and 1910.37).
What's an Exit Route? An "exit route" is a continuous and unobstructed path of exit within a workplace to a place of safety (including refuge areas). An exit route includes all vertical and horizontal areas along the route. Two key points of this definition are the words "continuous" and "unobstructed." Employees must be able to escape by following a clearly marked and unobstructed route from any point in the building or work area.
According to the regulations, an exit route consists of: The exit access (portion of the exit route that leads to the exit, such as a corridor that leads to an exit stairway)
The exit (protected way of travel to the exit discharge, such as an enclosed stairway from upper floors that leads to the discharge to the outside)
The exit discharge (part of the exit route that leads directly outside or to a street, walkway, refuge area, public way, or open space with access to the outside)
Numbers, Accessibility, and Capacity
In most cases, at least two exit routes must be available for every employee, located as far away from each other as possible to allow escape in the event one exit is blocked. A single exit route is allowed, however, if the number of workers, and the size of the building and workplace are configured to allow safe evacuation of all employees from one exit.
Building and fire codes require a certain number of exit routes and certain types of exit routes depending on a number of factors. Larger buildings may have many exit routes. In all cases, a sufficient number and capacity of exit routes must be available to evacuate all employees safely during an emergency.
Employees must be able to open an exit route door from the inside at all times without keys, tools, or special knowledge. A side-hinged exit door must be used. The capacity of the exit route must be adequate for all employees to evacuate on each floor, and it must meet minimum height and width requirements. An outdoor exit route is permitted.
Lighting, Signs, and Markings
Exit routes must be adequately lighted so that an employee with normal vision can see along the exit route. Signs must be posted along all exit routes that indicate the direction of travel to the nearest exit. Each exit, or doorway leading outside, must be marked with a clearly visible and distinctive sign that reads "EXIT." Typically exit signs include an arrow indicating the direction to the exit. The exit sign must have distinctive colors that do not blend into the background. The exit signs cannot be obstructed or concealed in any way.
Any doorway or passage that is not an exit but might be mistaken for one must be marked with a sign that reads "NOT AN EXIT" or a sign that indicates the door's actual use, such as "Basement," or "Closet."
1. Don't go overboard. Some employers tend to buy the highest level protection available for everything instead of doing the research to be more precise in PPE choices. While it would mean you would have the correct protection level for all manner of spills, this approach is a very expensive way to provide adequate protection.
2. Gather the information. To make proper PPE selection for spill cleanup, you need to know which chemicals you have on-site, how they are used and handled, where and how they are stored, and in what form they are stored (powder, liquid, etc.)
3. Decide which spills your facility will handle. While all spills must be cleaned up, this doesn't always have to be done by your employees. After evaluating chemicals in your facility, you may decide to have an outside hazardous materials cleanup contractor handle spills. Or you might decide your employees will clean up certain materials, and a contractor will handle all the others. Whichever course you choose, make sure it's clearly communicated to workers so that they know their roles in the event of a spill.
4. Select your PPE. Choose PPE to provide protection for the most hazardous of spills your employees will handle. You can usually choose PPE made from material that could be used in many different situations. However, take care to ensure that in all potential spill scenarios, the PPE material is compatible with the spilled chemicals. If not, you'll need to have more than one type of PPE.
5. Assess what you have on hand. Chances are you already have some or all of the PPE you need for spills on-site because employees wear it as a part of their regular work. In that case, you don't need to purchase separate PPE for spill cleanup. Simply make sure that those involved in spill cleanup know exactly which PPE they should use and where to find it.
6. Don't forget size. Gloves, jumpsuits, and other PPE come in different sizes. Don't buy size "medium" for everything. For jumpsuits and other garments, bigger is better. Garments can be fitted using duct tape if they are too large. If they are too small, they'll be of no use and risk employee exposure if strained seams fail. Gloves are fairly inexpensive, and keeping multiple sizes on hand generally won't cost much.
7. Take into account the number of responders. Having one set of PPE when spills require two or more people to properly accomplish the cleanup won't get the job done safely. Be sure you have complete sets for all those you would expect to be involved in a cleanup.