Written by Walt Meyer

Exit Signs & Emergency Lighting for Your Hotel or Motel – Part 1

Along with other governmental bodies, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) governs exit sign and emergency lighting requirements. Hotels and motels are also required to comply with the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) in charge of monitoring and enforcing local building codes and fire codes, which may be unique for each city.


OSHA’s 29 Code of Federal Regulation (CFR) 1910.34(c) requires that every exit route must be a “continuous and unobstructed path of exit travel from any point within a workplace to a place of safety.” This requirement applies to all vertical and horizontal areas along the route, and they are made up of the three components below.

Exit Access – The section of an exit route that leads to an exit.

Exit – The part of an exit route, aside from other areas, that provides a protected avenue of travel to where the exit discharges.

Exit Discharge – The section of the exit route leads straight to a sidewalk, street, walkway, public way, refuge area, or open space accessing the exterior of a building.

CFR 1910.37(b) sets forth OSHA’s requirements for lighting and marking exit routes. It mandates that every exit route must be sufficiently lit, allowing employees with normal vision to see along the exit route. Moreover, every exit must be clearly visible and marked by an “EXIT” sign with plainly legible letters. Other requirements are summarized below.

  • If the direction of travel for the exit or exit discharge is not immediately clear, then always visible signs must be posted to indicate the way.
  • An exit route door is required to be free of signs or decorations that can conceal or obscure its visibility.
  • A passage or doorway along the exit access is required to have a “Not an Exit” sign or be marked by a sign stating its actual use.
  • Each exit sign must be lit for a surface value of a minimum of 5-foot candles by a dependable and distinctively colored source of light.  

Part 2 will discuss Emergency Lighting Requirements.

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