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May 2013

Are Your Workers Safe Once Outside Your Building?

Tony soares 2012 Posted by Tony Soares

This is Part 3 in a series of posts regarding emergency evacuations. 

Exit discharges must lead directly outside or to a street, walkway, refuge area, public way, or open space with access to the outside. These exit discharge areas must be large enough to accommodate the building occupants likely to use the exit route and must be free of hazards, such as; slips, trips, falls, Caught In, Struck by, Chemical Exposures, etc.

Sometimes exit routes will take you outside, and although you are outside, you have yet to safely exit the building or structure. A common example of an outdoor exit route is a fire escape on the outside of many older buildings. Although outside, you may have to descend the many flights of stairs and finally go down a ladder before actually exiting the building.

  • Outdoor exit routes might also include travel along a balcony, porch, roof, courtyard, etc.
  • Outdoor exit routes must have guardrails to protect unenclosed sides.
  • If outdoor exit routes are likely to have snow or ice, making passage difficult; the outdoor area must be covered.
  • Outdoor exit routes must be reasonably straight and have smooth, solid, substantially level walkways.
  • No dead ends longer than 20 feet are allowed to branch off the exit route. A guardrail, or some other barricade, should be installed to prevent employees from going in the wrong direction when trying to evacuate.
  • All doors along the exit route, including the final door that leads outside, must open readily. If doors had to be pulled open, a bottleneck could be created, and employees could be injured.
  • The doors along the exit route must open without the use of keys, tools, or any other special knowledge. A device that locks only from the outside, such as a panic bar, is permitted.
  • Side-hinged exit doors must be used to connect rooms to exit routes. These doors must swing out in the direction of exit travel if the room is to be occupied by more than 50 people or if the room is a high-hazard area.
  • If exit doors are equipped with an alarm that will sound when the door is opened, the door must still open easily even if the alarm is not functioning correctly.
  • Exit routes must clearly show the most direct path to leave the building.
  • If it is unclear in which direction employees should go once they reach an open space, additional exit signs are needed to point the direction they should go.

Check out this additional resource from the National Safety Council regarding Exit Routes.

What Are Your Exit Signs Made Of?

Tony soares 2012 Posted by Tony Soares

This is Part 2 in a series of posts regarding emergency evacuations. 

Each exit, or doorway leading outside, must be marked with a clearly visible, distinctive sign that reads EXIT.

  • The exit signs must have distinctive colors so that they do not blend into the background and can be seen easily from a distance.
  • Signs must be posted along the exit routes that indicate the direction of travel to the nearest exit. These signs will often have the word EXIT with an arrow pointing to the left or right. In most buildings, there will be a series of EXIT signs with arrows that point out the direction of the exit route before the door that leads to the outside is actually reached.
  • The exit signs cannot be obstructed or concealed in any way that might prevent people from seeing them. Additional signs on the exit doors may cause confusion. Be careful not to put holiday decorations on or near exit signs. Never put a mirror near an exit door because it will cause confusion on the direction of travel.
  • A non-exit door is any doorway or passage that might be mistaken for an exit. Examples include doors to closets, basements, storage rooms, offices, mechanical or electrical rooms, etc.
  • These doors must be marked with a sign that reads NOT AN EXIT or with a sign indicating the door’s actual use, such as “Basement” or “Closet.”
  • Each exit route must be illuminated in such a way that even during a power outage, emergency lighting is available. The lighting must be adequate and reliable and should be checked regularly to ensure that it is in working condition.
  • Exit signs themselves must be illuminated. This lighting must also be reliable and should be checked on a regular basis.
  • Exit signs that are self-lighting must be checked on a regular basis to ensure that the lighting is always in good working order.
  • Exit signs that are not self-lighting must be made of a reflective material so that they are easy to see when illuminated by the emergency lighting.

This additional reference on Exit Sign Regulations is provided by Exit Sign Warehouse.

You know how to make an entrance, what about an EXIT?

Tony soares 2012 Posted by Tony Soares

It is not enough to ensure the safety of your employees during normal work activities. When an evacuation is necessary, you will need responsible, trained individuals who can supervise and coordinate activities to ensure a safe and successful evacuation.  This is Part 1 of a multi-part post regarding emergency evacuations and how employers can prepare for the worst.  Check out OSHA’s Emergency Action Plan E-Tool for additional resources regarding this subject.

Part 1 – How large are your Exit Doors?

The exit route refers to how employees will travel from their workstation to the exit door. Workers may need to go down hallways, passageways, corridors, open aisle ways, stairwells, through doorways, lobbies, etc., until the exit door is reached. The Exit door may lead out to a parking lot, sidewalk, busy alley, or outdoor courtyard.

Building and Fire Codes require a certain number of exit routes and exit routes, depending on several factors:

  • Low-density workplaces do not require as many exits. High-rise office buildings must have multiple exits designed to handle many people.
  • The size of the building also impacts the number of exits.
  • The arrangement of the building also affects the number of exits. A square building with open floor spaces probably does not need as many exits as an odd-shaped building.
  • The type of occupancy also impacts the number of exits. A building in which flammable chemicals are stored or used will require more exits because a fire could be started more easily and also spread more quickly.

Keep in mind that from any point in a building, there must be at least two exit routes to provide different ways for employees to leave the workplace safely during an emergency.

  • A single exit route is allowed in some rare cases. The number of employees, the size of the building, and the arrangement of the workplace is such that a single exit will allow all employees to exit safely during an emergency. Other means of escape, such as an accessible window, are required to be provided in case the one exit becomes blocked.
  • The exit route must be large enough to accommodate the maximum permitted occupant load for each floor served by the evacuation route. If a stairwell is designed to serve as an evacuation route for many floors, it must be able to handle the maximum occupant load of each of those floors.
  • The capacity of an exit route cannot decrease at any point. This may create a bottleneck in the exit route and block the route. It might cause panic as people are wondering why everyone has stopped. Injuries might occur as people try to push forward into the bottleneck.  Do not use exit routes as storage areas, because this results in decreased capacity of the exit route.
  • Exit routes must always be a minimum of 7 feet 6 inches high. Objects such as ceiling fans or sprinkler heads cannot hang down below 6 feet 8 inches.
  • Exit routes must always be a minimum of 28 inches wide at all points. This includes the distance between handrails.

Look for Part 2 on this subject soon.  In the meantime, here is an additional resource on Fire Doors.

OSHA and Compliance Based Safety

Klatt Randy Posted by Randy Klatt

"Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while other people will find a way around the laws."     - Plato (427-347 B.C.)

Judging from the above quote it seems safe to say that rules and regulations have been around for a long time and that some people have always had difficulty following them.  The same is true when it comes to complying with the OSHA standards.  

There is no doubt that attempting to be compliant with all applicable OSHA standards is a difficult task.  The sheer volume of regulation, the varying interpretations, and the bureaucratic hyperbole can be overwhelming.  But when it comes to employee safety, the focus really should be on doing the right thing.  As daunting as the OSHA standards are, they are based upon one goal:  protecting the worker from job related hazards.  If that is truly the priority then often the situation will call for safety measures above and beyond what the federal law requires. 

Ergonomics is perhaps the best example of this.  Preventing cumulative trauma disorders is the right thing to do, but there is no OSHA standard covering this… at least not yet.  Don’t simply ask, “what does OSHA require?”  The right question to ask is, “what is the best way to complete the task safely?”  This is not subjective; there are best practices to adopt for just about everything.  Keep in mind that just because you never got hurt doing something doesn’t mean it is a safe practice.

Compliance based safety has a role in all businesses, but developing a positive safety culture takes far more than simply following the rules.  Encourage people to report hazards, develop new training ideas, look out for one another, enforce higher standards of behavior, and nurture younger workers as they learn the job.  Safety is truly everyone’s responsibility, not just the “compliance managers” job. 

MEMIC policyholders can log onto the Safety Director for more information on developing a positive safety culture at your place of business. 

Meeting OSHA's Revised HazCom Standard's Training Requirements

LaRochelle Greg 1 Posted by Greg LaRochelle

With OSHA’s Hazard Communication Standard (HCS) remaining as one of the top five most frequently cited standards against employers (ranking #2 in fiscal year 2012), now’s the time to prepare for meeting the first compliance deadline of December 1, 2013 for employee training on the revised HazCom standard.  By this date, employers must train their workers on the new label elements and safety data sheet (SDS) format.  As OSHA states on their HCS webpage, “The standard that gave workers the right to know, now gives them the right to understand.”

In a previous MEMIC Safety Net blog posted in April 2012, a summary of the completion dates, compliance requirements, and effected parties was provided with information on the final rule stage of the revised HCS to align with the Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS).  Since then, several resources have become available to facilitate the training requirements including the following:

Additionally, MEMIC policyholders have access to the following:

  • Hazard Communication and the Globally Harmonized System Webinar (in the On Demand Webinars section of the MEMIC Safety Director)
  • GHS: Globalize Your Communication (available in DVD and streaming video format through the Video Lending Library)
  • HazCom and GHS training sessions (available in the BLR section of the MEMIC Safety Director in a variety of formats…handouts, audio presentation, PowerPoint)

So don’t delay and remember to document all safety training as objective evidence of fulfilling your training compliance requirements.