SPOT THE SAFETY VIOLATION: Try Getting Out This Emergency Exit


Could storing this rack in this location cause any safety issues, say, in a fire or other emergency?


The whole point of having designated fire doors and emergency exits is to provide a way for workers and others to safely leave the workplace in the event of a fire or other emergency. But anyone trying to use the emergency exit in this picture would get a rude awakening when they found that the door was blocked from the outside by a rack with locked wheels, as noted by the person who contributed this photograph to the US Naval Safety Center.

Employers are required under the OHS laws to plan for a wide-variety of workplace emergencies, including fires, explosions, serious safety incidents and extreme weather conditions, such as floods and blizzards.

In addition, the OHS laws and building codes typically require emergency exits to be kept clear of obstructions—both from the inside and the outside. It’s easy to assume that you’ll never really need to use emergency exits and so see these areas as the perfect places to store materials and equipment.

But look what happened in several recent fires when people did need to use these exits and couldn’t:

  • When a fire broke out in a nightclub in Brazil, bouncers initially blocked the only exit, thinking people were trying to leave without paying their tabs. As a result, people were trapped inside and more than 200 died.
  • A fire in a garment factory in Bangladesh resulted in the deaths of seven workers. The factory’s sole emergency exit was allegedly locked.
  • In a prior Bangladesh factory fire, at least 110 workers died and about 200 were injured in part because the building lacked fire exits and the main doors may have been padlocked.

And here in Canada, workers in an Ontario wrecking yard were forced to run to the other end of the building to escape a fire because the emergency exit was blocked. They suffered burns and smoke inhalation. Their employer was fined $60,000 for, among other things, failing to ensure that emergency exits were free from obstructions [Woodstock Auto Recyclers Ltd., Govt. News Release, April 26, 2012].

To protect your workers in the event of fires and other emergencies, go to the OHS Insider’s Emergency Preparedness & Response Compliance Centre for:

You can also buy fire safety posters at

And go to Safety Smart for fire safety training tools, including videos, safety talks and more. Not a subscriber to SafetySmart? Sign up for a free trial.