Escape Routes in the Company: What Employers Need to Know

In dangerous situations, employees must be able to leave their workplace quickly and safely. Strict regulations apply to escape routes and emergency exits.

Escape routes are one of the occupational health and safety measures that guarantee that in an emergency all persons can leave the hazardous situation as quickly as possible by the shortest route. In an emergency - for example in the event of a fire or mass panic - the appropriately marked routes in the company are intended to guide employees or, if necessary, visitors into a secure area. In addition to the structural requirements for a building, there are also special regulations for escape routes and emergency exits that employers and employees should know and observe.

Escape routes - know the legal basics

The main entrance areas of a company are usually not sufficient to evacuate everyone quickly in an emergency. Most companies therefore have other emergency exits that should not or may not be used as entrances or exits in day-to-day operations. In Germany, the requirements for escape routes in workplaces are regulated by the Workplace Ordinance (ArbStättV) in combination with the Workplace Regulations (ASR) A2.3 or ASR V3a.2 for the barrier-free design of workplaces.

According to the German Technical Rules for Workplaces (ASR A2.3), escape routes are defined as traffic routes that are intended to enable the escape from the hazardous area and at the same time the rescue of persons. The emergency exit is an "exit in the course of an escape route that leads directly into the open or into a secured area". The number, location and dimensions of escape routes always depend on the respective building size as well as the highest possible number of persons present. All escape routes must be permanently and clearly marked with directions indicating their course.

Escape and rescue routes - what is the difference?

An escape route is intended to allow people and other living beings to safely reach the outside or a secured area. An escape route can be used without outside help, it is used for self-rescue. An escape route is a term used in structural fire protection. It is used for external rescue. Rescue forces such as the fire brigade or emergency doctors and paramedics use the escape route to get into a building or to reach people in need of help.

Escape routes in offices and the like - these dimensions and regulations apply

The length of escape routes

All persons should be able to reach safety as quickly as possible via escape routes. Therefore, the shortest distance (as the crow flies) measured from the most distant location to an emergency exit should always be chosen as the length. Depending on the hazard, the following maximum lengths apply in Germany:

  • 35 metres for rooms with no or normal fire risk and for rooms with increased fire risk with automatic fire extinguishing systems.
  • 25 metres for rooms with an increased fire risk without automatic fire extinguishing equipment.
  • 20 metres for rooms at risk of toxic substances and explosions.
  • 10 metres for rooms at risk of explosion.

The width of escape routes

According to A2.3 (ASR), the width of escape routes are measured against the number of people who would use the route in an emergency.

Example:

  • for up to five people, at least 0.875 metres
  • for up to 400 people at least 2.40 metres

The height of an escape route or emergency exit must always be at least two metres, regardless of the number of people.

Requirements for escape routes at a glance

  • Escape routes must be provided with safety lighting.
  • Escape routes and emergency exits must be permanently marked with self-illuminating or illuminated pictograms.
  • Escape routes and emergency exits must be kept permanently clear.
  • Emergency exits and escape doors must be easy to open from the inside at all times without outside assistance.
  • Escape doors must open in the direction of escape.
  • Secondary escape routes (e.g. over roofs) must comply with the building code requirements for escape routes.
  • Spiral staircases or ladders are not permitted as first escape routes.
  • A lift must not be part of an escape route.
  • In the event of power failures, electrical locking systems must open automatically.

Escape doors - central element of escape routes

Escape doors are among the essential elements of escape and rescue routes. The challenge for doors that serve as escape routes or emergency exits: People must be able to leave dangerous situations through them at any time. Legal regulations state that escape doors and emergency exits must never be locked. At the same time, unauthorised access should be prevented in day-to-day operations. So-called panic locks provide a remedy. They ensure that a door can always be opened from the inside, even if it has been locked from the outside.

Comprehensive solutions for security management in the company ensure safe escape routes and correctly secured escape doors, regardless of the type and size of the building. Functional on- and offline solutions allow existing doors to be retrofitted with special locks and converted into escape doors.

Scalable security systems such as pSM from primion present all security technology applications such as access control, fire alarm technology and escape route technology on one interface. Security personnel have a complete overview at all times, can react in the event of an emergency and security-relevant workflows are automatically initiated.

Escape and rescue plans in the company

Depending on the extent and use of the workplace, appropriate escape and rescue route plans must be drawn up and displayed prominently in the company. According to the German Technical Regulation ASR A2.3, section "Escape and rescue plan", the employer must regularly inform his employees about the contents of the escape and rescue plans as well as about how to behave in case of danger. At least once a year, the escape routes should be inspected with all employees.

What happens if the described regulations on escape routes, emergency exits, etc. are not observed? Non-compliance has far-reaching consequences: fines, loss of insurance cover and even closure of the company. Irrespective of this, employers should know, implement and comply with the relevant regulations in the long term, especially in the interest of employees and visitors to the company. Because in an emergency, escape routes do one thing above all: they save human lives!

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