OSHA Regulations for a Door That Is to Remain Unlocked During Business Hours

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Exit doors are visibly designated so they can be seen in an emergency.
Exit doors are visibly designated so they can be seen in an emergency. (Image: Thinkstock/Comstock/Getty Images)

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is the agency charged with enforcing workplace safety regulations. Exit doors are required in businesses and OSHA requires that you, as a business owner, comply with certain regulations regarding those exit doors to ensure the safety of yourself and your employees in the event of a fire or other hazardous situation.

Exit Discharge

An exit discharge is OHSA's terminology for an exit door. It must conform to certain standards in accordance with OSHA regulations. The exit door must remain unlocked at all times. It must open directly to a street, public way, refuge area or open space that leads directly to the outside and is large enough to accommodate the number of people likely to use that exit. Employees must be able to open the door without using tools, keys or special knowledge. Exit route doors can be locked from the inside if your business is a correctional institution or mental health facility, but only if you have an evacuation plan and there is supervisory personnel at the doors continuously.

Types of Doors

OSHA regulations require that you install a side-hinged exit door. The door that connects any room to an exit must open out in the direction of exit if the room must hold 50 people or more and is in an area likely to burn extremely rapidly or explode. Exit doors cannot have alarms or devices that could restrict its use or prevent it from unlocking if the alarm or device fails. Exits can only have enough doors to allow access from work areas or to the exit discharge. Openings into exits must have self-closing fire doors that remain closed, but not locked, or automatically close at the sound of an alarm.The door, frame or hardware must be listed or approved by a national testing laboratory.

Height and Width

OSHA requires that the height of an exit must be seven feet. Anything projecting from the ceiling must be at least six feet from the ground. The width of the exit must be at least 28 inches. If there is only one exit point, the width of the exit access and the unlocked exit discharge must be at least equal to the exit access. The width of the exit route must be sufficient to accommodate the maximum load that could be placed upon it.

Outside Exits

You can use outside exits to reach an exit discharge, but the exit pathway must meet certain specifications. If you use an outdoor exit, it must have guardrails if there is a fall hazard. It must also be level and relatively straight. It can't have a dead end of more than 20 feet and if snow or ice could accumulate on it, the exit must be covered.

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