- Standard Number:
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 http://www.osha.gov.
April 5, 2002
Jean Tessmer, ASID
Space Options Inc.
PO Box 29
Kula, Hawaii 96790
Dear Ms. Tessmer:
Thank you for your February 11, 2002 letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Compliance Programs (DCP). This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated within your original correspondence. You had questions regarding OSHA exit sign requirements and how the requirements relate to Americans with disabilities.
Question 1: Does paragraph [1910.37(b)] not allow us to place ADA-compliant Braille and tactile signage at required exits?
According to 29 CFR 1910.36(a), "...this subpart contains general fundamental requirements essential to providing a safe means of egress from fire and like emergencies. Nothing in this subpart shall be construed to prohibit a better type of building construction, more exits, or otherwise safer conditions than the minimum requirements specified in this subpart." As a result, [29 CFR 1910.37(b)] does not prohibit employers from providing additional protection to employees. However, we would like to inform you that OSHA does not enforce ADA regulations, and their requirements are outside of OSHA's jurisdiction.
In cases of emergencies, if ADA regulations increase the likelihood of evacuating disabled employees to a safe location, OSHA would encourage employers to consider them in their safety and health plans. OSHA does not have the authority to disallow the use of ADA regulations that may include the placement of ADA-compliant Braille and tactile signage at required exits. Additionally, state and local government authorities may enforce their own ADA requirements, and you should consult with them on this issue.
The text "who is physically and mentally capable" appears to exclude persons with disabilities. ADA states that all required exits must be accessible. Does OSHA's regulation exclude persons with disabilities the opportunity to participate in an event of an evacuation? Does OSHA consider persons with disabilities as persons who are physically (mobility, visual and hearing) impaired and mentally (cognitively) impaired capable?\
Reply: The OSH Act was promulgated with the intent to assure, so far as possible, safe and healthful working conditions for all working men and women. While 29 CFR [1910.37(b)] does not specifically require employers to provide exit signs which can be understood by persons with disabilities, in keeping with the policies of the Americans With Disabilities Act, OSHA strongly encourages all employers to provide such signage whenever appropriate. Likewise, OSHA encourages employers to adopt additional, prudent measures to ensure that disabled employees or employees who require assistance are safely evacuated in case of fire or like emergency.
We note that the language in 29 CFR 1910.36(b)(5) derived from an early consensus standard and was adopted as an OSHA requirement shortly after enactment of the OSH Act in 1970.
[This document was edited on 02/05/2004 to strike information that no longer reflects current OSHA policy. 29 CFR 1910 Subpart E was revised on November 7, 2002 at FR 67:67949-67965.]
Question 3: Can and should we also use OSHA's exit requirements for general locations of exits and directional signs? In other words, every illuminated exit sign defined by OSHA would have an additional ADA Braille and tactile sign below it, thus giving persons with disabilities an opportunity to find their way down a corridor to the appropriate exit doors. Inappropriate doors would be clearly marked with Braille and tactile signs to reduce confusion.
Reply: Nothing in the OSH Act or its standards prohibit or preclude an employer from adopting the measures that you have described. However, as previously noted, the Agency has no specific standards that would require an employer to adopt these measures. Absent a specific standard, OSHA cannot mandate an employer to take steps that may foster occupational safety and health unless the Agency can demonstrate that such steps are necessary to furnish employment and a place of employment that are free from recognized hazards that are causing, or are likely to cause, death or serious harm to the employer's employees.
Question 4: Will we violate an OSHA standard if the ADA Braille and tactile exit signs do not have fonts and stroke widths that are 6" high by 3/4" wide?
Reply: No. This requirement is for visible exit signs designed for sighted employees. OSHA does not dictate the principal strokes of letters for Braille and tactile signs.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. 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 http://www.osha.gov.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the [Office of General Industry Enforcement at (202) 693-1850].
Richard E. Fairfax, Director
[Directorate of Enforcement Programs]