Are Your Workers Safe Once Outside Your Building? -Part III

This is Part III in a series of posts regarding emergency evacuations. 

Exit discharges must lead directly outside or to a street, walkway, refuge area, public way, or open space with access to the outside. These exit discharge areas must be large enough to accommodate the building occupants likely to use the exit route and must be free of hazards, such as; slips, trips, falls, Caught In, Struck by, Chemical Exposures, etc.

Sometimes exit routes will take you outside, and although you are outside, you have yet to safely exit the building or structure. A common example of an outdoor exit route is a fire escape on the outside of many older buildings. Although outside, you may have to descend the many flights of stairs and finally go down a ladder before actually exiting the building.

  • Outdoor exit routes might also include travel along a balcony, porch, roof, courtyard, etc.
  • Outdoor exit routes must have guardrails to protect unenclosed sides.
  • If outdoor exit routes are likely to have snow or ice, making passage difficult; the outdoor area must be covered.
  • Outdoor exit routes must be reasonably straight and have smooth, solid, substantially level walkways.
  • No dead ends longer than 20 feet are allowed to branch off the exit route. A guardrail, or some other barricade, should be installed to prevent employees from going in the wrong direction when trying to evacuate.
  • All doors along the exit route, including the final door that leads outside, must open readily. If doors had to be pulled open, a bottleneck could be created, and employees could be injured.
  • The doors along the exit route must open without the use of keys, tools, or any other special knowledge. A device that locks only from the outside, such as a panic bar, is permitted.
  • Side-hinged exit doors must be used to connect rooms to exit routes. These doors must swing out in the direction of exit travel if the room is to be occupied by more than 50 people or if the room is a high-hazard area.
  • If exit doors are equipped with an alarm that will sound when the door is opened, the door must still open easily even if the alarm is not functioning correctly.
  • Exit routes must clearly show the most direct path to leave the building.
  • If it is unclear in which direction employees should go once they reach an open space, additional exit signs are needed to point the direction they should go.

Check out this additional resource from the National Safety Council regarding Exit Routes.


You Know How to Make an Entrance, What About an EXIT? -Part I
What Are Your Exit Signs Made Of? -Part II
Do You Have a Written Emergency Action Plan? -Part IV