Exit Sign Regulations: An Overview

Exit sign regulations are designed to protect building occupants from injury or death that could result from the inability to locate an exit. Several sets of regulations govern the design, luminance, and placement of exit signs in commercial and large residential buildings. For example, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) guidelines, International Code Council (ICC) codes, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, and Underwriter Laboratories (UL) standards all have requirements for exit signage. However, these guidelines, codes, and standards often share the same requirements, co-opting them from each other.

The legality of regulations

As with other types of building regulations, exit sign regulations fall into two categories: legally enforced regulations, and regulations that are not legally enforced. Because it serves as a federal agency to the U.S., all OSHA regulations are federally enforced, affecting all applicable buildings in all states. In other cases, however, parts of codes are passed into law by state legislation and city ordinances. For example, one city may require signs to be placed in proximity to the floor as an added safety measure, whereas other cities may not. Building owners are recommended to check state and local laws before they implement exit signage.

Electrical versus non-electrical signage

Electrical signs are still the most popular form of exit signage. But, as time goes on and environmental awareness increases, at least some types of electrical exit signs will be retired. In fact, the incandescent sign is already being phased out, with the photoluminescent sign being the optimal replacement. Concerning OSHA regulations, the only distinction between electrical and non-electrical signs is that self-luminous or electroluminescent signs are permitted to have a lower minimum surface luminance (.06 foot lamberts) than electrical signs (54 lux).

Nevertheless, implementing electricity-free photoluminescent signs has obvious safety benefits. Unlike electrical signs, they are impervious to falling debris and explosions, and they do not rely on backup batteries. In addition to being safer than electrical signs, photoluminescent signs also cost nothing to operate or maintain.

The risks of not complying with regulations

There are several risks to not complying with exit sign regulations. Non-compliance with OSHA exit sign regulations brings the threat of stiff fines, which often reach the six-figure mark when multiple facilities are involved. Facilities can also be shut down if violations are left unaddressed. Fines and getting shut down are also penalties for violations at the state and local levels.

In addition to formal penalties, buildings that have improper exit identification can also suffer the results of botched evacuations, such as: wrongful death suits, personal injury suits, workers comp payments, a raise in workers comp insurance premiums, and damaged reputation. Exit sign regulations are critical for protecting building occupants in the event of fires and other emergencies. But they also protect the financial interests of the entities that implement them.

At Jessup Manufacturing, we offer a variety of OSHA compliant luminescent exit signs with prices for every budget. Contact us today to find out how much money you could save by exchanging your electrical exit signage for photoluminescent signage.

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