Even 5 years after moving, I still read the news from the city in Massachusetts where I previously lived for 16 years, and I was #wordless when I saw this story from the Framingham Source. I receive reader photos of blocked emergency exits on a weekly basis, but often it feels pointless to try to effect change. I worry about waiting for a tragedy to occur so people will understand why the codes exist, but even past tragedies have not resulted in lasting change. People forget, doors are locked or blocked, and it happens again.
But here’s another incentive to comply: A news release from the US Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) states that two Massachusetts stores (including one near my old home) were recently fined $227,304 for blocked emergency exits. Almost a quarter of a million dollars.
OSHA inspectors found fire exit routes in backroom storage areas blocked by objects, such as packing boxes, products, rolling carts, metal bars, portable ladders, and a powered industrial truck.
A few years ago I looked into whether OSHA regulations are applicable to public schools, since some of the security methods being used are not compliant with OSHA requirements, adopted codes, or federal accessibility laws. Here’s what I wrote in my article, Barricade Device, Think Twice:
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation 1926.34 prohibits devices that impede egress: “No lock or fastening to prevent free escape from the inside of any building shall be installed except in mental, penal, or corrective institutions where supervisory personnel is continually on duty and effective provisions are made to remove occupants in case of fire or other emergency.” In some states, OSHA regulations do not cover state and local government employees (including school staff), but many states adopt the OSHA regulations as part of their workplace safety requirements. In those states, the OSHA requirements for free egress may apply to schools.
For more information about OSHA requirements for keeping exits clear, refer to the agency’s Emergency Exit Routes fact sheet.