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My name is Jill, Chief Safety Officer with Vivid Learning Systems. I'm a former OSHA inspector here to help you identify and correct workplace safety hazards and discuss safety training.
Today I'd like to take a moment to honor the victims and the survivors of an industrial fire that happened in Hamlet North Carolina in 1991. 25 people lost their lives and 56 more were injured when the exits in their workplace were locked from the inside and they couldn't get out. Never make the assumption that the exits in your workplace are unobstructed or not locked or can be accessed and opened from the outside.
This is something that you should be doing as a workplace inspection as often as you do your fire extinguisher inspections, which is monthly if not more.
Here are a few things to know: The access to the exit cannot be obstructed. In fact the width of the path or access to the exit cannot be less than 28 inches wide. If you have stored equipment reducing the width of an exit, remove it and don't store explosives or flammables along the route or access to an exit. Ensure that the exit doors are not locked from the inside. It is acceptable to have doors locked from outside for security reasons however, they cannot be locked from inside when the building is occupied. If you have locks on your door make sure that the door locks are always open when the building is occupied.
Now another way to ensure that the doors can never be locked from the inside is to use something called panic hardware. Panic hardware on the inside of the door is a bar that goes across the door and it can be pushed and the door can easily be opened at any time, but security is maintained on the outside of your building because the door is always locked.
When you're doing your exit inspections be sure to always open the exit and check to see where your exit discharges. If your exit discharges into a fenced-in area make sure that employees can get out of that fenced-in area if they need to get away from the building completely so that they're not trapped inside the fenced in area. Also if your exit discharges onto a set of stairs, make sure there's a complete guardrail and hand rail system on the stairs so they can safely evacuate not fall over the edge. Additionally check to see that your exit exits to an even surface and it doesn't drop so that employees are falling out of an exit a couple of feet. And finally if you live in a climate where there's snow, be sure that during times of snow or snow storms that you're checking the exit on the outside to make sure that the door can be opened and it's not being blown shut by snow and ice.
I hope you gained a safety training skill today if you know someone who needs this go ahead and pass it on.
Safety is everyone's business.