Exit Route Safety

An exit route is a continuous and unobstructed path from any point within a workplace to a place of safety.  An exit route consists of three parts:

  • Exit access – portion of an exit route that leads to an exit.
  • Exit – portion of an exit that is generally separated from other areas to provide a protected way of travel to the exit discharge
  • Exit discharge – part of the exit route that leads directly outside or to a street, walkway, refuge area, public way, or open space with access to the outside.


  • Each exit route must be a permanent part of the workplace.
  • An exit must be separated by fire resistant materials.  Construction materials used to separate an exit from other parts of the workplace must have a one-hour fire resistance-rating if the exit connects three or fewer stories and a two-hour fire resistance rating if the exit connects four or more stories.
  • The number of exits must be adequate to permit the evacuation of employees. Review Life Safety Code for number of exit routes needed for number of employees on the job-sit.
  • Each exit discharge must lead directly outside or to a street, walkway, refuge area, public area, or open space with access to outside. This area must be large enough to accommodate the job-site occupants likely to use the exit route.
  • An exit door must be unlocked from the inside.
  • Workers must be able to open an exit route door from the inside at all times without keys, tools, or special knowledge.
  • Exit doors must be free of any device or alarm that could restrict emergency use of the exit route if the alarm fails.
  • A side-hinged exit door must be used. The door that connects any room to an exit route must swing out in the direction of exit travel if the room is designed to e occupied by more than 50 workers or if the room is a high hazard area.
  • An exit route must meet minimum height and weight requirements. The ceiling of an exit route must be at least seven feet six inches high.  Any projection from the ceiling must not reach a point less than six feet eight inches from the floor. 
  • An exit access must be at least 28 inches wide at all points. Objects that project into the exit route must not reduce the width of the exit route to less than the minimum width requirements.
  • An outdoor exit route is permitted. The exit must have guardrails to protect unenclosed sides if a fall hazard exists.
  • The outdoor exit must be enclosed if snow or ice is likely to accumulate along the route before it presents a slipping hazard.
  • The outdoor exit must be reasonably straight and have smooth, solid, substantially level walkways.
  • The outdoor exit must not have a dead-end that is longer than 20 feet.

Presenter tips:

  • Pre-read the Tool Box Talk. Your comfort level and confidence will be higher if you know your topic.
  • Discuss related tasks, work areas or events that make the Tool Box Talk relevant to your jobsite.
  • Involve the workers by asking questions and input that drives discussion. Funding and support for this project has been provided by the State of Washington, Department of Labor & Industries.

Questions for Discussion:

  • Describe what it is like to exit an area when it is overcrowded with people.  Imagine if exiting this area was the result of a natural disaster or fire. Why is the number of exits and size important at a job-site?