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Means of Egress, 1910.36 and 1910.37

Quick Tips #268
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"Means of egress" is defined as the way to exit a building or structure, especially during an emergency. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set forth fundamental requirements (1910.36 and 1910.37) to follow.


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Every building or structure (new or old) designed for human occupancy is to have exits sufficient to permit the prompt escape of occupants in case of fire or other emergency. Safety to life should not rely solely on any single safeguard, therefore additional safeguards should be provided for life safety in case any single safeguard is ineffective. Exits are to be arranged and maintained so that they provide free and unobstructed egress from all parts of the building or structure at all times when it is occupied.

Buildings or structures under construction cannot be occupied in whole or in part until all exit facilities required for the part occupied are completed and ready for use. No existing building can be occupied during repairs or alterations unless all existing exits and any existing fire protection are continuously maintained, or unless other measures are taken to provide equivalent safety.

An exit is to consist only of the approved components and the components should be constructed as an integral part of the building or permanently affixed to the building.

An exit or exit access door swinging into an aisle or passageway should not restrict the effective width at any point during its swing to less than the minimum width specified in the OSHA standard. A door from a room to an exit or to a way of exit access is to be of the side-hinged, swinging type. It should swing with exit travel when the room is occupied by more than 50 persons or used for high hazard occupancy.

The "occupant load" for any floor, balcony, tier or other occupied space is the maximum number of persons that may be in the space at any time. Where exits serve more than one floor, only the occupant load of each floor considered individually has to be used in computing the capacity of the exits at that floor, provided that exit capacity would not be decreased in the direction of exit travel. When more than one exit is required from a story, at least two of the exits are to be remote from each other and arranged to minimize any possibility that both may be blocked by any one fire or other emergency condition.

In no case should access to an exit be through a bathroom or other room subject to locking, except where the exit is required to serve only the room subject to locking. No lock or fastener to prevent free escape from the inside of any building is to be installed, except in mental, penal or corrective institutions where supervisory personnel are continually on duty and effective provisions are made to remove occupants in case of fire or other emergency.

The minimum width of any way of exit access, such as a hallway or aisle, should not be less than 28 inches (71.1 cm). Where a single way of exit access leads to an exit, its width should be at least equal to the required width of the exit. Where more than one way of exit access leads to an exit, each exit is to have a width adequate for the number of persons it must accommodate. Means of egress have to be designed and maintained to provide adequate headroom, but in no case shall the ceiling height be less than 7 feet 6 inches (2.3 m) nor any projection from the ceiling be less than 6 feet 8 inches (2.0 m) from the floor.

Every exit must either be clearly visible or the route to reach it must be clearly marked so that every occupant of every building or structure who is physically and mentally capable will know the direction of escape from any point. Each path of escape, in its entirety, is to be arranged or marked so that the way to an outside place of safety is unmistakable.

There is not a predetermined color for exit signs because they are to be distinctive in color and provide contrast with decorations, interior finish or other signs. Every exit sign must have the word "Exit" in plainly legible letters not less than 6 inches high, with the thickness of the letters not less than 3/4 inch wide. Any door, passage or stairway that is neither an exit nor a way of exit access, and which is located or arranged and could be mistaken for an exit, is to be identified by a sign reading "Not An Exit" or similar designation. A sign indicating its actual character, such as "To Basement", "Storeroom", "Linen Closet" or the like would be a good idea.

Every exit sign needs to be suitably illuminated by a reliable light source giving a value of not less than 5 foot-candles on the illuminated surface. Artificial lights giving illumination to exit signs other than the internally illuminated types shall have screens, discs or lenses of not less than 25 sq. in. made of translucent material to show red or other specified designating color on the side of the approach. There are not to be any brightly illuminated signs (for other than exit purposes), displays or objects in or near the line of vision to the required exit sign that would detract attention from the exit sign or cause it to not be noticed.

All exits must discharge directly to the street or to a yard, court or other open space that gives safe access to a public way. Stairs and other exits are to be arranged so that the direction of egress to the street is clear. Exit stairs that continue beyond the floor of discharge need to be interrupted at the floor of discharge by partitions, doors or other effective means. Means of egress are to be continuously maintained so they are free of all obstructions and impediments to full, instant use in the case of fire or other emergency.

Commonly Asked Questions
Q.   Is there a requirement for exit sign color? Some facilities have green, other facilities have red.
A.   There is no requirement for specific colors. NFPA 101 Section states "signs must be of a distinctive color and design that is readily visible and shall contrast with decorations, interior finish and other signs." Some states or or local jurisdictions may require a certain color.
Q.   When is a "No Exit " sign required?
A.   The "No Exit" sign is only needed where "any door, passage, or stairway that is neither an exit nor a way of exit access and that is located or arranged so that it is likely to be mistaken for an exit shall be identified by a sign that reads: NO EXIT". (NFPA Life Safety Code 101 Section



29 CFR 1910.36

29 CFR 1910.37

Means of Egress & Fire Protection by Division of Education and Training for Occupational Safety & Health.

(Rev. 6/2014)

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Please Note:
The information contained in this publication is intended for general information purposes only and is based on information available as of the initial date of publication. No representation is made that the information or references are complete or remain current. This publication is not a substitute for review of the current applicable government regulations and standards specific to your location and business activity, and should not be construed as legal advice or opinion. Readers with specific questions should refer to the applicable standards or consult with an attorney.

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