Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at

June 29, 1994


FROM:               JOHN B. MILES, JR., DIRECTOR 

SUBJECT:            Key to Open Locked Exits

This is in response to your inquiry of January 14, regarding locked exits equipped with locks that require keys to open them from the egress side. Please accept our apology for the delay in response.

The following guidance is offered to clarify 29 CFR 1910.36(b)(4) with respect to the definition of "occupied". The 1985 and 1991 editions of NFPA 101, the Life Safety Code, define a building as being "occupied" when more than 10 persons are in it.

OSHA cannot enforce the provisions of NFPA 101-1985 and 1991, including the definition of "occupied", when assessing compliance with 1910.36(b)(4), since they were not offered to the public for comment under the rulemaking provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act. Since NFPA 101, 1970 Edition [source document for 29 CFR 1910.36] did not include the definition of "occupied" at the time of adoption, OSHA will not narrow its scope of coverage of 1910.36 to accommodate NFPA's 1985 and the 1991 definition of "occupied". Such an accommodation would provide a level of protection for employees less than that which is afforded by the 1970 edition.