Emergency Action Plans: Act Safe When the Unexpected Strikes

Why Should I Have an Emergency Action Plan?

As an OSHA authorized trainer, I have guided numerous students through the OSHA Outreach Training Program for General Industry, 10-hour course. A segment of that course emphasizes the importance of properly marked emergency exits and having an emergency action plan in place. In my experience, I find this to be an overlooked safety segment by many. The idea of having an emergency action plan seems far-fetched. When will we ever need to use it? But will you and the employees at your company be prepared to act fast, and in a safe manner if a fire were to ignite at your facility?

OSHA’s Floorplan Diagram Example
Source: OSHA.gov

Emergency Exit Regulations

During the 10-hour for industry course, I go over the importance of creating a written program and guide, and details to include. The course emphasizes the significance of having an escape route map, what should be included on that, and the critical need to have it posted at every employee and visitor entry. In the event of a fire, people need to be able to reference it quickly and easily.

The course then shifts gears to highlight compliance standards for emergency exit routes, walkways and egress points. As we discuss this segment, questions often arise regarding emergency lighting systems and exit signs.

It is important to note the following regulations from OSHA and the consensus organization National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA)*:

OSHA Code of Federal Regulations 29CFR1910.37(b)

  • If direction of travel to exit or discharge is not apparent, signs must be posted along the exit access indicating direction to nearest exit.
  • Line of sight to an exit sign must be clearly visible at all times.
  • Adequate and reliable illumination for all exits.
  • Proper maintenance to ensure exit lighting is in proper operating condition at all times.

  • Requires specific illumination and performance of emergency and exit lights.
  • Provides functional standards for battery-powered emergency and exit lighting.

  • Requires a monthly inspection of all emergency and exit lighting systems.
  • Requires an annual test of all emergency and exit lighting systems.

  • Periodic testing of emergency lighting equipment.
  • An annual test shall be conducted for a 1-1/2 hour duration. Equipment shall be fully functional for the duration of the test.

  • Requires proper illumination of means of egress.
  • Requires assurance that emergency and exit lighting systems will provide illumination for at least 60 minutes.

  • Exit illumination and signs require a functional test that shall be conducted on every required emergency lighting system at 30-day intervals for a minimum of 30-seconds.

*Please note that the above referenced standards are only segments of the total sections from their respective organizations.

Inspection and Tests Are Key

As you read through the above regulations, there is one very important thing to remember. Inspect your emergency exit systems monthly and test them annually. Document your inspection dates and tests. Keep the records organized with your facility’s safety files and make sure they are easy to locate and reference.

Please reach out if you could use help with anything safety related. I am always happy to help with facility safety assessments, specific safety compliance questions, and training segments for most OSHA compliance issues. Horizon Solutions also offers lighting experts that can assist with your emergency lighting requirements.

Do you have a proper emergency action plan in place? When was the last time your emergency exit systems were tested? 

#NationalSafetyMonth #KeepEachOtherSafe

About the author

Jim Lanz
Jim Lanz

Jim supports our sales team and helps our customers achieve a safe, healthy, and accident-free work environment in his role of Safety Specialist at Horizon Solutions. Jim has over 15 years experience in the field of safety which includes extensive OSHA compliance experience and executing safety programs for manufacturing facilities. Jim is an Authorized OSHA Outreach Instructor, and facilitates safety training classes that involve custom curriculum that meets the specific needs of our customers.