Fact Sheet

Evacuation Exits

What Is an Exit Route?

An exit route is a continuous and unobstructed path that allows workers to travel from any point within the workplace to a place of safety. It has three parts:

  1. Exit access—the part of the route leading to the exit
  2. Exit—part of the route that is generally separated from other areas to provide a protected way of traveling to the exit discharge.
  3. Exit discharge—leads directly outside or to a street, walkway, refuge area, public way or open space with access to the outside.

How Many Exit Routes Must a Workplace Have?

It depends on the size and configuration of the workplace, and the number of employees.

Basically a workplace must have two exists that provide prompt evacuation of employees and other occupants during an emergency. Exit routes must be located as far away from each other as if practical to provide exit form the building in case one exit is blocked by fire, smoke, debris or other objects that result from the emergency.

More than two exits are required, if the number of employees, arrangement or size of the workplace won’t allow employees and other occupants to evacuate safety.

Other Design and Construction Requirements for Exit Routes

Recommendations

Educate employees where all the exits are and how to escape from the workplace.

Keep emergency exits unlocked from the inside and exit access unblocked.

Don’t allow anything to make the emergency route less than 28 inches wide throughout.

Keep exit routes free of explosive or highly flammable furnishings and decorations.

Avoid directing employees past unshielded high hazard areas on their exit routes.

Ensure exit routes are unobstructed by material, equipment, locked doors and dead ends.

Provide lighting that is adequate for people with normal vision along exit routes

Mark doors or passages along an exit access that could be mistaken for an exit as “Not an Exit” or identify its use, such as “Closet.”

Install “EXIT” signs in plainly legible letters.

Maintain exit routes during construction, repairs or alterations.

Provide an emergency alarm system to alert employees to an emergency.

Identify personnel with special needs or disabilities who may need help evacuating and assign one or more people, including backup personnel, to help them.

Ensure that during off-hour periods, systems are in place to notify, evacuate, and account for off-hour building occupants.

Resources

Hansma, Maggie, “Disaster Plans for Disabled Students, Public Risk, April 1997, Public Risk Management Association

OSHA Evacuation Plans and Procedures eTool, Design and Construction Requirements for Exit Routes

OSHA Evacuation Plans and Procedures eTool, Maintenance, Safeguards, and Operational Features for Exit Routes

OSHA Fact Sheet: Emergency Exit Routes

OSHA Fact Sheet: Evacuating High-Rise Buildings

OSHA Quick Card: Emergency Exit Routes