Rules for exiting buildings during an emergency have been rewritten in user-friendly terms to make the standard easier to understand, OSHA has announced.

The revised Exit Routes, Emergency Action Plans, and Fire Prevention Plans Standard becomes effective on December 7, 2002.

"Having a clear plan and procedure for exiting a building as safely as possible, if necessary, is one of the most basic and important safety precautions," said OSHA chief John Henshaw. "OSHA's standard was over 30 years old and in need of updating."

The requirements for exit routes have been rewritten in simple, straightforward, easy to understand terms. For example, Means of Egress is now referred to as Exit Routes. The text has been reorganized, and inconsistencies and duplicative requirements have been removed. The revised rule has fewer subparagraphs and a smaller number of cross-references to other OSHA standards than the previous version.

Employers now have the option of adopting the National Fire Protection Associations' Life Safety Code, instead of the OSHA standard for exit routes.

The revised standard does not change regulatory obligations of the employer or the safety and health protections provided to employees by the original standard, according to OSHA.