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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.
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News Release USDL: 96-375
Tuesday, September 10, 1996
Contact: Frank Kane (202) 219-8151

OSHA Proposes It's First Rewrite of Requirements Into Plain Language

Standards for Workplace Emergency Routes to be Offered in Two Versions

OSHA is becoming user-friendly. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is suggesting that its guidelines for leaving a building in a hurry or otherwise be changed to plain language. In other words, what employers once found listed as "Means of Egress" will now be listed under "Exit Routes."

OSHA wants to know what employers, their employees and the general public think about this proposal, which was advertised today in the government's non-plain language Federal Register.

Labor Secretary Robert B. Reich says the simplification makes for better government. "Today, we've made a substantial down payment on a government that works better," Reich said. "Americans are well-served when government communicates simply and clearly about worker safety and health."

This is the first of OSHA's standards to be simplified. Others will follow.

"To make this standard as user-friendly and understandable as possible, we also are proposing this in two plain language formats," said Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health Joseph A. Dear, the head of OSHA. "The first version is organized in the traditional OSHA regulatory format and the second version uses a question and answer format. We want to know which version is the most effective."

President Clinton's reinventing government initiative prompted OSHA's review of its standards to determine which should be rewritten in plain language.

The requirements for exit routes for general industry have been rewritten in simple, straightforward, easy-to-understand terms. The proposals also reorganize the text, remove inconsistencies among sections and eliminate duplicate requirements. The proposed rules also are performance-oriented and shorter than the existing standards.

Each of the two proposed versions includes a detailed table of contents, to make them easier to use.

Both proposed versions leave unchanged the regulatory obligations on employers and the safety and health protection provided to employees.

The proposed question and answer version is very different from the approach taken in current OSHA standards. Each provision is written in the form in which an employer might ask a question about the rule, and this question is followed by an answer that tells the employer about the applicable requirements.

Notice of the proposed rule is published in the Tuesday, Sept. 10, 1996, Federal Register.

Comments and requests for hearings must be postmarked no later than Nov. 12, 1996, and submitted in quadruplicate to the OSHA Docket Office, Docket No. S-052, Room N-2625, U.S. Department of Labor, 200 Constitution Ave., N.W., Washington, DC 20210 (telephone 202-219-7894). Comments of 10 pages or less may be faxed to the Docket Office, if followed by hard copy mailed within two days, (fax 202-219-5046).


The following represents a comparison of an existing regulatory provision and a plain language version of the same provision. This example involves the provision for width and capacity of means of egress in the current "Means of Egress" standard.


29 CFR 1910.37(c)

(c) Width and capacity of means of egress.(1) The capacity in number of persons per unit of exit width for approved components of means of egress shall be as follows:

29 CFR 1910.37(c)(1)(i)

(i) Level Egress Components (including Class A Ramps) 100 persons.

29 CFR 1910.37(c)(1)(ii)

(ii) Inclined Egress Components (including Class B Ramps) 60 persons.

29 CFR 1910.37(c)(1)(iii)

(iii) A ramp shall be designated as Class A or Class B in accordance with the following Table E-1:

Table E-1

Width 44 inches and greater 30 to 44 inches
Slope 1 to 1 3/16 inches in 12 inches 1 3/16 to 2 inches in 12 inches
Maximum height between landings No limit 12 feet

29 CFR 1910.37(c)(2)

(2) Means of egress shall be measured in units of exit width of 22 inches. Fractions of a unit shall not be counted, except that 12 inches added to one or more full units shall be counted as one-half a unit of exit width.

29 CFR 1910.37(c)(3)

(3) Units of exit width shall be measured in the clear at the narrowest point of the means of egress except that a handrail may project inside the measured width on each side not more than 5 inches and a stringer may project inside the measured width not more than 1 1/2 inches. An exit or exit access door swinging into an aisle or passageway shall not restrict the effective width thereof at any point during its swing to less than the minimum widths hereafter specified.

29 CFR 1910.37(d)

(d) Egress capacity and occupant load.(1) The capacity of means of egress for any floor, balcony, tier, or other occupied space shall be sufficient for the occupant load thereof. The occupant load shall be the maximum number of persons that may be in the space at any time.

(2) Where exits serve more than one floor, only the occupant load of each floor considered individually need be used in computing the capacity of the exits at that floor, provided that exit capacity shall not be decreased in the direction of exit travel.


29 CFR 1910.36

(i) What is the required capacity for exit routes? An employer must ensure that each exit route supports the maximum-permitted occupant load for each floor served by the exit route. The capacity of an exit may not decrease with the direction of exit travel.

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 News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents

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