Keep Exit Routes Clear

To protect customers and employees, businesses must keep exit routes clear. When businesses ignore safety guidelines and block exits, they face citations from OSHA and negative publicity. For example, WSFA-12 News reported that Dollar Tree received citations from OSHA for multiple violations at its Andalusia, Alabama location. One of the citations stemmed from the store endangering employees’ lives by blocking emergency exits. Citations for blocked emergency exits often make the news, but businesses can take steps to easily avoid this problem. Managers, employees, and customers need to be aware of exit routes and make sure everyone has clear access.

Be Aware of Requirements

Every manager should know the clear exit requirements for his or her business. Retailers and small businesses can find information on all the OSHA evacuation and walking/working surfaces standards on the OSHA website. Author, consultant and NSEC instructor John Newquist says, “The minimum number of exits a business needs is two, but larger businesses and employers need to have more than that.” He adds that it is not enough to have exits. Managers need to check exit routes often to make sure they aren’t blocked by merchandise, packaging, trash or other items.

Pay Attention and Speak Up

Employees, especially those who frequently work in storage rooms and areas off-limits to customers, may be the first to notice or be affected by blocked exits. They have a right to a safe working environment that includes clear access to emergency exits. Newquist says the first step for any employee who notices a violation is to bring it up to the company. If management does nothing, the employee can file an anonymous online complaint at osha.gov.

Customers may also notice blocked exits, or other safety violations, and can help save lives by taking action. Newquist advises customers who notice a violation to take a picture of it with their cell phone and bring it up to the manager. Then, check back later on to see if the violation is fixed. If it isn’t, the photo should be sent to OSHA.

Limit Inventory

Newquist also says managers should limit inventory so they do not overcrowd any part of the business with excess products. If an order is too big, managers should send it back to the warehouse. Having extra inventory on hand is not worth risking people’s lives. Managers must limit inventory and keep exit routes clear. 

Take OSHA #7105

NSEC offers OSHA #7105 – Evacuation and Emergency Planning. This course covers the requirements of emergency action and fire prevention plans, elements of emergency evacuation plans and the design and proper maintenance of emergency exit routes. This course is offered by NSEC throughout the year at various Region V training sites. You can also request a custom course at your location and desired time. To see a list of course dates, visit NSEC’s Course Schedules. To request a custom course, please e-mail director Pettee Guerrero at nsec@niu.edu.

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