OSHA 29 CFR 1910 Guidance and regulations Regarding the Minimum Width of Passageways, Stairways, Hallways and Exits

OSHA 29 CFR 1910 Guidance and regulations Regarding the Minimum Width of Passageways, Stairways, Hallways and Exits

The minimum acceptable width of a hallway, passageway, stairway, or exit is often a point of contentions during safety inspections. OSHA regulations and interpretations describing these requirements are found in several different sections.

1910.36 - Design and construction requirements for exit routes.
1910.24 - Fixed industrial stairs.
1910.37 - Maintenance, safeguards, and operational features for exit routes.

The OSHA [exit route] requirements, [CFR#1910.36(g)(2)], state that the minimum width of any way of exit access shall in no case be less than 28 inches. Stairways, which are not used as an exit or emergency, according to CFR#1910.24(d), may have a minimum stair width of 22 inches.

However, it must also be noted that the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) often overrides OSHA, and commonly mandates at least 44 inches to allow wheelchair access.

OSHA Interpretation:

04/27/2000 - Minimum width of exit routes; redesignation of 1910.1020.

This particular OSHA interpretation letter also references these OSHA regulations:
1910.1020 - Access to employee exposure and medical records.

April 27, 2000

Mr. Gregory W. Faeth
Safety Consulting & Training Services
PO Box 1718
Fairfield, IA 52556

Dear Mr. Faeth:

Thank you for your December 28, 1999 to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Compliance Programs. Please be aware that this response may not be applicable to any scenario not delineated within your original correspondence. You had specific questions regarding Fixed Industrial Stairs, 29 CFR CFR#1910.24, and the redesignation of the Access to Employee Exposure and Medical Records Standard, 29 CFR CFR#1910.1020. Your questions and our reply follow.

Question #1: The OSHA [exit route] requirements, [CFR#1910.36(g)(2)], state that the minimum width of any way of exit access shall in no case be less than 28 inches and the OSHA stair requirement, CFR#1910.24(d), requires a minimum stair width of 22 inches. Is an employer out of compliance with this [exit route] standard if the stairs are 22 inches in width?

Reply: Yes, if the stair is an [exit route] component (the exit access, the exit itself, or exit discharge). All stairs, and other approved [exit route] components, must meet the Subpart E, [Exit Routes] standards.1

Furthermore, in order to afford all occupants convenient facilitates for escape, the capacity of an [exit route] (i.e., stair) for any occupied space must be appropriate to the individual building or structure with due regard to the character of the occupancy; the number of persons exposed; the fire protection available; and the height and type of construction of the building or structure. [See paragraph 1910.36(b)(3).] The minimum width permitted for a passageway used as an exit access is, according to [CFR#1910.37(g)(2)], 28 inches; however, most occupancies require additional width based upon the capacity of [exit route] requirements.

The 22 inch stair width requirement applies to both interior and exterior, fixed industrial stairs (i.e., around machinery, tanks, and other equipment; to and from floors, platforms, or pits) when they are used as described in the application paragraphs 1910.24(a) and (b). Where these requirements overlap, the [Exit Routes] requirements would apply.

Question #2: Why did OSHA move CFR#1910.20 to CFR#1910.1020 without updating other 1910 standard references to CFR#1910.1020? There are many references to CFR#1910.20 and the only corrected reference is in the newer Respiratory Protection, CFR#1910.134, Standard. For example, paragraph 1910.120(f)(8)(i) incorrectly directs a reader to CFR#1910.20 instead of CFR#1910.1020.

Reply: In redesignating CFR#1910.20 as CFR#1910.1020, OSHA has simply moved the standard from Subpart C to Subpart Z of the Part 1910 - Occupational Safety and Health Standards. We have not changed or modified the standard language. Your observation correctly identifies OSHA's omission to change the CFR#1910.20 reference language. Our [Directorate of Standards and Guidance] is currently working on a correction notice to rectify this inconsistency. This notice should be published in the Federal Register and become effective this year.

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. Please be aware that the enforcement guidance contained in this response represents the views of OSHA at the time the letter was written based on the facts of an individual case, question, or scenario and is subject to periodic review and clarification, amplification, or correction. It could also be affected by subsequent rulemaking; past interpretations may no longer be applicable. In the future, should you wish to verify that the guidance provided herein remains current, you may consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the [Office of General Industry Enforcement] at (202) 693-1850.


Richard E. Fairfax, Director
[Directorate of Enforcement Programs]

[Corrected 2/4/2004]

1 The source for the performance-oriented standard is the National Fire Protection Association Life Safety Code (NFPA 101-1970); it is current OSHA's policy to use this consensus standard as a reference source for clarification purposes. In the past, OSHA has used the Life Safety Code (the Code) as an aid in interpreting Subpart E and we intend to continue to rely on the NFPA Life Safety Code (NFPA 101-2000) and other consensus standards as guidance in implementing performance-oriented requirements.

[This document was edited on 02/05/2004 to strike information that no longer reflects current OSHA policy. 29 CFR 1910 Subpart E was revised on November 7, 2002 and incorporates compliance with NFPA 101-2000 at 1910.35.]

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