How will you evacuate the premises during an emergency? What if a fire breaks out in the office and you have no idea where the exits are? Are you certain that all emergency doors are unlocked and halls are unblocked?
The answers to these questions can literally save your life.
Escape routes or exit routes is a straight path to an exit of an office which should be free of all obstacles. It comprises of 3 parts namely:
The exit – this is the part of the exit route which is usually separated from other areas in the workplace and which should provide unobstructed access to the discharge.
Exit access – this is the part of the escape route which should lead directly to the exit.
Exit discharge – as the name implies this is the part of the exit that leads evacuees to the outside. This can include a walkway, a street, a public space and any space which is safe.
According to regular safety standards, a workplace needs to have at least 2 escape routes which should encourage workers to evacuate ASAP. However, more than 2 routes should be in place if the number of employees, size of the building and the structure of the building do not allow safe evacuations. 1 exit route is enough if that is not the case and people can exit the building quickly enough.
In addition, all exit routes should be as far away from each other as possible in case one of them is blocked by fire or any other obstacle.
Escape measures should be based on the time it takes for people to evacuate the premises. This should be an evaluation of the time it takes for an emergency to start till it makes escape impossible or unsafe. To ensure a safe escape each time, the route needs to be protected via insulated construction methods.
It might also be necessary to provide sleeping accommodations and other care facilities in case workers are trapped within the premises for several days. Installing an air pressure system that prevents smoke from entering those areas is also a good idea.
When examining the effectiveness of an escape route the following should be taken into account:
- The ability to escape without aid
- The discoveries made in the risk assessment exam
- The workplace size along with its contents, how it is constructed, layout and the size of the available potential escape routes.
- The total number of people that may be present in the space
- All escape routes must be cleared of fire resistant materials especially if it connects to multiple stories.
- Only those opening should be accessible which allow access to the exit or the exit discharge directly.
- All openings should be protected from closing in on themselves to prevent blockades.
In a nutshell, all workplaces or office spaces should have clear means of escape in case of an emergency to prevent injuries or worse. Notice boards should be kept in plain sign which panicking or nervous employees may be able to follow easily. However, make sure they are made with flame retardant materials in the event of a fire.
These arrangements should be conveyed to everyone in the office and especially designated fire wardens who will be supervising evacuations. Building regulations should also be taken into account to prevent violations.
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