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Think about the last time you inspected your company’s emergency exits. You might have located each emergency exit, checked to make sure the signage was there, that the door wasn’t blocked from the inside, and then called it a day.
Emergency exit inspections may not seem like very complicated inspections to perform, but there’s much more to it than simply looking at lighting and the exit door itself. For example, did you check to make sure that each exit sign was illuminated (as is required, even during the day)? What about checking to make sure that the door actually opens and isn’t warped, jammed, blocked or locked from the outside? How about the path leading to the exit door? Did you check to make sure it was clear, direct and didn’t require workers to go through high hazard areas or that the exit door opened to an area of refuge? If you didn’t include these things in your inspection, your inspection isn’t finished. Think about it, what good is an exit door if the employees can’t get to it safely or if the exit door can’t be opened or opens to something dangerous, like railroad tracks or a steep set of stairs?
This might seem like a common sense inspection but you’d be surprised. One quick online search for citations and penalties for blocked exits and you’ll find a long list of companies that have been cited and fined for not maintaining their exits—and even a few companies that have experienced fatalities as a result.
If you’ve read the standards for maintaining exit routes and find it a bit confusing or aren’t sure what to include in an inspection, there’s help available! The first step is to visit OSHA’s e-tool for exit routes which takes the standard and makes it easier to understand and includes some interactive activities. The second step is to download and use our Emergency Exit Route Checklist Plan Template (which comes from OSHA’s e-tool) and then go inspect your emergency exits!