Violations of OSHA’s emergency egress requirements could result in fatalities during a fire, so OSHA cites these as “serious” violations with significant fines. Below are the top five most-cited paragraphs.
The most frequently cited paragraph is §1910.37(b)(2) which requires that exits be clearly visible and marked by signs. Some exit doors might be missing signs, or the sign might be obstructed. Note that this covers not just doors leading outside, but the entire exit route. Wherever you are in a building, you should see signs pointing to an exit. If those directional signs are missing, this paragraph could be cited.
The second most-cited paragraph is §1910.37(a)(3) which requires unobstructed routes, and that routes be substantially level. Blocking an exit route with a mail cart, pallet, or other items happens a lot. This rule also requires stairs or ramps where the route is not substantially level. OSHA does not define that term, but if you’ve ever stepped through a door going outside that had a drop of several inches, that tripping hazard might cost lives during an emergency.
In third place is §1910.36(d)(1) which says that employees must be able to open an exit route door without keys, tools, or special knowledge. Good examples include panic bars or push bars on exits that keep doors locked from the outside, but allow easy opening from inside. Adding something like a sliding deadbolt (even without a lock) is a violation because it would slow employees from exiting.
The fourth most-cited provision is §1910.37(b)(5) which requires marking doors or passages that could be mistaken for an exit. You’ve probably seen “not an exit” signs or something like “storage closet.” In addition, dead-end hallways must be marked to avoid confusion during an emergency.
In fifth place is §1910.37(b)(6) which requires illuminating signs so they’re always visible. Most businesses use self-lighted signs, but you might have some doors with a simple metal or plastic sign reading “EXIT” — and that’s okay if the sign is lighted and visible at all times. Even ambient lighting can be sufficient, but if the overhead lights are off (or power is lost during a fire), the sign still has to be properly illuminated (perhaps by directional emergency lights).
During an emergency, exit route violations could cost lives. Our experts frequently receive questions on exit routes, and the answers do not always appear in the OSHA regulations. By sending your questions through the Expert Help feature in the J. J. Keller® SAFETY MANAGEMENT SUITE, our experts can search the National Fire Protection Association codes, building codes, and interpretations to find the information you need.