Is My Emergency / "Panic" Door In Compliance with OSHA?

The first thing any trained OSHA inspector will look for is how a facility will handle a work-place emergency--specifically, a fire.

Panic hardware enables large numbers of people to exit quickly in an emergency. The required locations for panic hardware vary depending on which code has been adopted, but typically, panic hardware is required for assembly and high hazard occupancies, where the calculated occupant load is 50 people or more (International Building Code (IBC) and International Fire Code (IFC)); or 100 people or more (NFPA 101 – Life Safety Code). Panic hardware is also mandated by NFPA 70 – the National Electrical Code, for doors serving some rooms containing electrical equipment.

Here are three things you must know when evaluating your emergency / "panic" doors:

  1. An exit door must be unlocked. OSHA Standard 1910.36(d)
  2. Employees must be able to open an exit route door from the inside at all times without keys, tools, or special knowledge. A device such as a panic bar that locks only from the outside is permitted on exit discharge doors. OSHA Standard 1910.36(d)(1)
  3. Exit route doors must be free of any device or alarm that could restrict emergency use of the exit route if the device or alarm fails. OSHA Standard 1910.36(d)(2)
The Upshot: If you are convening more than 50 people, you should speak with your local fire department to ensure your emergency exit doors and pathways are up to code.
You can read the full OSHA Standard 1910.36 "Design and construction requirements for exit routes" at this link.