Is Your Shop Prepared for Emergencies?

By Victor Shell
Director of Safety & Transportation

Victor Shell

What would you and your staff do if an employee ran into your office or store and yelled, “Fire! Fire!"

Would you call 911?  Run to the parking lot? Or run to put out the fire? Would every employee know their role in an emergency? Do you have an organized plan? Is your plan documented and reviewed periodically?

OSHA standards require emergency action plans to ensure employee safety in the event of fire and other emergencies, and further require such action plans must be prepared in writing, kept in the workplace, and reviewed with all affected employees. Employers with 10 or fewer employees, however, may communicate the plan orally to employees.

The plan must include the following elements: escape procedures and routes, critical store/yard operations, employee accounting following an emergency evacuation, rescue and medical duties, means of reporting emergencies, and persons to be contacted for information and clarification.

Exits are Required for Prompt Escape

Every building designed for human occupancy must have enough exit routes to permit the prompt escape of occupants in case of emergency. An exit door must be unlocked.

In hazardous areas, or where employees may be endangered when a single exit is blocked by fire or smoke, there must be at least two exits that are remote from each other. Exits, as well as the paths to them and away from them, must be maintained so that they are unobstructed, and are accessible at all times. In addition, employees must be able to open exits doors from the inside at all times without keys, tools, or special knowledge.

All exits must discharge directly to the street or other open space that give safe access to a public way. Exit doors serving more than 50 people, or at high-hazard areas, must swing in the direction of exit travel. Exits must be marked by readily visible, suitably illuminated exit signs. Exit signs must be distinctive in color and provide contrast with surroundings. The word “EXIT” must be in plainly legible letters, not less than 6 inches high. The capacity of exit routes must be sufficient to handle the occupant load and meet the minimum height of 7.5 feet and width of 28 inches.


Victor Shell is CSA’s in-house expert on safety and transportation issues. His services are free to members. He’s available for a phone consult or to come to your yard and do a mock OSHA or DOT inspection. He can be reached at [email protected] or (470) 514-6729.