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Design and Construction Requirements for Exit Routes  

This section contains requirements for the design and construction of exit routes. It includes a requirement that exit routes be permanent, addresses fire resistance-ratings of construction materials used in exit stairways (exits), describes openings into exits, defines the minimum number of exit routes in workplaces, addresses exit discharges, and discusses locked exit route doors, and exit route doors. It also addresses the capacity, height and width of exit routes, and finally, it sets forth requirements for exit routes that are outside a building.

Exit routes must meet the following design and construction requirements [29 CFR 1910.36(a)
]: See OSHA's Demonstrative Exit Routes #1 and #2 to learn how to apply the OSHA standards for exit routes. For further assistance, consult NFPA 101, Life Safety Code.

What is an exit route?
An exit route is a continuous and unobstructed path of exit travel from any point within a workplace to a place of safety. An exit route consists of three parts:
  • Exit access - 29 CFR 1910.36(a)(3) portion of an exit route that leads to an exit.
  • Exit - portion of an exit route that is generally separated from other areas to provide a protected way of travel to the exit discharge.
  • 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.



Basic requirements
An exit route must be permanent. Each exit route must be a permanent part of the workplace [29 CFR 1910.36(a)(1)].

An exit must be separated by fire resistant materials. Construction materials used to separate an exit from other parts of the workplace must have a one-hour fire resistance-rating if the exit connects three or fewer stories and a two-hour fire resistance-rating if the exit connects four or more stories [29 CFR 1910.36(a)(2)].

Openings into an exit must be limited. An exit is permitted to have only those openings necessary to allow access to the exit from occupied areas of the workplace, or to the exit discharge. An opening into an exit must be protected by a self-closing fire door that remains closed or automatically closes in an emergency upon the sounding of a fire alarm or employee alarm system. Each fire door, including its frame and hardware, must be listed or approved by a nationally recognized testing laboratory. Section 29 CFR 1910.155(c)(3)(iv)(A) of this part defines "listed" and Appendix A of section 29 CFR 1910.7 defines a "nationally recognized testing laboratory" [29 CFR 1910.36(a)(3)].



Number of exits
The number of exit routes must be adequate [29 CFR 1910.36(b)].

At least two exit routes must be available in a workplace to permit prompt evacuation of employees and other building occupants during an emergency, except as allowed in paragraph (b)(3) of this section. The exit routes must be located as far away as practical from each other so that if one exit route is blocked by fire or smoke, employees can evacuate using the second exit route [29 CFR 1910.36(b)(1)].

More than two exit routes must be available in a workplace if the number of employees, the size of the building, its occupancy, or the arrangement of the workplace is such that all employees would not be able to evacuate safely during an emergency [29 CFR 1910.36(b)(2)].

A single exit route is permitted where the number of employees, the size of the building, its occupancy, or the arrangement of the workplace is such that all employees would be able to evacuate safely during an emergency [29 CFR 1910.36(b)(3)].

Note to paragraph 29 CFR 1910.36(b): For assistance in determining the number of exit routes necessary for your workplace, consult NFPA 101, Life Safety Code.



Exit discharge
Each exit discharge must lead directly outside or to a street, walkway, refuge area, public way, or open space with access to the outside [29 CFR 1910.36(c)(1)].

The street, walkway, refuge area, public way, or open space to which an exit discharge leads must be large enough to accommodate the building occupants likely to use the exit route [29 CFR 1910.36(c)(2)].

Exit stairs that continue beyond the level on which the exit discharge is located must be interrupted at that level by doors, partitions, or other effective means that clearly indicate the direction of travel leading to the exit discharge [29 CFR 1910.36(c)(3)].



Locking arrangements
An exit door must be unlocked from the inside [29 CFR 1910.36(d)].

Employees must be able to open an exit route door from the inside at all times without keys, tools, or special knowledge. A device such as a panic bar that locks only from the outside is permitted on exit discharge doors [29 CFR 1910.36(d)(1)].

Exit route doors must be free of any device or alarm that could restrict emergency use of the exit route if the device or alarm fails [29 CFR 1910.36(d)(2)].

An exit route door may be locked from the inside only in mental, penal, or correctional facilities and then only if supervisory personnel are continuously on duty and the employer has a plan to remove occupants from the facility during an emergency [29 CFR 1910.36(d)(3)].

 


Door swing
A side-hinged exit door must be used [29 CFR 1910.36(e)].

A side-hinged door must be used to connect any room to an exit route [29 CFR 1910.36(e)(1)].

The door that connects any room to an exit route must swing out in the direction of exit travel if the room is designed to be occupied by more than 50 people or if the room is a high hazard area (i.e., contains contents that are likely to burn with extreme rapidity or explode) [29 CFR 1910.36(e)(2)].



Exit route capacity
The capacity of an exit route must be adequate [29 CFR 1910.36(f)].

Exit routes must support the maximum permitted occupant load for each floor served [29 CFR 1910.36(f)(1)].

The capacity of an exit route may not decrease in the direction of exit route travel to the exit discharge [29 CFR 1910.36(f)(2)].

Note to paragraph 29 CFR 1910.36(f): Information regarding "Occupant load" is located in NFPA 101, Life Safety Code.



Height and width requirements
An exit route must meet minimum height and width requirements [29 CFR 1910.36(g)]

The ceiling of an exit route must be at least seven feet six inches (2.3 m) high. Any projection from the ceiling must not reach a point less than six feet eight inches (2.0 m) from the floor [29 CFR 1910.36(g)(1)].

An exit access must be at least 28 inches (71.1 cm) wide at all points. Where there is only one exit access leading to an exit or exit discharge, the width of the exit and exit discharge must be at least equal to the width of the exit access [29 CFR 1910.36(g)(2)].

The width of an exit route must be sufficient to accommodate the maximum permitted occupant load of each floor served by the exit route [29 CFR 1910.36(g)(3)].

Objects that project into the exit route must not reduce the width of the exit route to less than the minimum width requirements for exit routes [29 CFR 1910.36(g)(4)].



Outdoor exit routes
An outdoor exit route is permitted [29 CFR 1910.36(h)].

The outdoor exit route must have guardrails to protect unenclosed sides if a fall hazard exists; [29 CFR 1910.36(h)(1)].

The outdoor exit route must be covered if snow or ice is likely to accumulate along the route, unless the employer can demonstrate that any snow or ice accumulation will be removed before it presents a slipping hazard [29 CFR 1910.36(h)(2)];

The outdoor exit route must be reasonably straight and have smooth, solid, substantially level walkways; and [29 CFR 1910.36(h)(3)]

The outdoor exit route must not have a dead-end that is longer than 20 feet (6.2 m) [29 CFR 1910.36(h)(4)].

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