More than 100 years ago, the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire cost the lives of 146 workers, most of whom were young, immigrant women. In that tragedy, the factory’s owners had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits–a common practice at the time–to prevent theft and prevent workers from taking unauthorized breaks. The foreman who held the key escaped, leaving the locked doors behind him. Without any way out, many women jumped from the windows to their deaths while others perished from the fire itself.
Safety has come a long way since then, but emergency egress remains a crucial tool to keep workers safe in the event of a fire or other emergency. OSHA has strict rules about how emergency exits should be constructed and the responsibilities that companies have. 29 CRF 1910 Subpart E describes the standards for exit routes and emergency planning, which includes basic requirements for an adequate number and capacity of routes, permanence of routes, appropriate discharge, height and width requirements, and door specifications. Employers are required to keep exit routes clear of obstructions, maintain appropriate lighting and signage, and ensure that doors are unlocked. Further, employers are required to have written emergency plans that are communicated regularly and clearly to employees.
Emergency egress is a crucial tool to help keep workers safe in an emergency. Find out more here.