Not-So-Great Moments in Safety: Locked Doors

Locked Doors

Not-So-Great Moments In Safety

Jill James

Jill James

Chief Safety Officer

Jill James brings an unrivaled perspective on risk, regulation and liability. With 14 years of experience as a Senior OSHA Safety Investigator with the State of Minnesota, and nearly a decade in the private sector as a safety program manager, Jill is a passionate advocate for training ROI.

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What’s the hazard here? If this door could speak, I think its story might go something like this...

Back when this building went up I was installed without a doorknob and got this fancy vertical handle because it was more durable. The whole place was coated with gray paint and we lived happily for a while. Since I lead outside, I need to be kept locked to secure the building from the outside in. I’ve had a number of different bolt locks over the years, but they break and this one is the latest and has lasted the longest. A while back, we had an insurance audit and the person told us I needed a label to remind people not to use the bolt lock when people were working in here. You can see how that turned out, I’m locked now and people are working at the moment.

A couple of years ago we had an OSHA inspection and I got a citation for being locked while the building was occupied. The OSHA inspector said one way to ensure I always stayed unlocked during business hours was to install some panic hardware. Panic hardware or a panic bar means a door can always be locked on the outside and never on the inside. It’s really a perfect solution. So we did that and I got the panic bar. We should’ve removed the bolt lock when I got the panic bar, but that didn’t happen.

Then, in some weirdness, the panic bar wasn’t installed properly and the latch didn’t catch quite right, so I kept blowing open during strong winds. That’s when the maintenance department came up with this pipe and those holders to keep me closed. Fixing the panic bar would’ve been a better fix, but I didn’t get to choose. All I know, is that I’m sort of embarrassed about how I look and if there’s ever a fire or an active shooter and people need to get through me quickly, I hope they can figure out my special locking system. I’m not too proud to be a door right now.

How can this hazard be corrected? Remove the special locks and ensure the panic bar is working correctly to release occupants from the inside with a simple push of a hand or body weight on the panic bar and that the door remains locked and secure on the outside.

Any laws around this? 

Yes. 29CFR 1910.36(d)(1)-(3) state the following:

An exit door must be unlocked.

Employees must be able to open an exit route door from the inside at all times without keys, tools, or special knowledge. A device such as a panic bar that locks only from the outside is permitted on exit discharge doors.

Exit route doors must be free of any device or alarm that could restrict emergency use of the exit route if the device or alarm fails.

An exit route door may be locked from the inside only in mental, penal, or correctional facilities and then only if supervisory personnel are continuously on duty and the employer has a plan to remove occupants from the facility during an emergency.

Conversation Starters: Use this door’s story to audit all the exits in your building. Document deficiencies and work with those who have authority and budget to remediate hazards and set complete dates if deficiencies cannot be correctly immediately. Make exit inspections part of normal maintenance inspections.