Skip Navigation and Go To Content
Handbook of Operating Procedures

Building Pathways Use Guidelines

Guidelines to Assure Safe Egress Pathways in UTHealth Facilities

A. Minimum Corridor Width

Primary exit access corridors must be free of any obstructions that might impede the prompt evacuation of building occupants in times of emergency. The Texas State Fire Marshal enforces the National Fire Protection Association’s Life Safety Code, which requires that these primary exit access corridors "be maintained free of any obstructions within the full designed clear width." This means that with the exception of the specially designed recess alcoves, no items can be stored in the primary exit access corridors. Specially designed recess alcoves exist in some buildings that are intended to accommodate items such as copiers, tables, and chairs without encroachment into the primary perimeter corridor area.

When evaluated based on the current Life Safety Code, the majority of UTHealth building's corridors are classified as primary exit access corridors. However, some buildings, such as the Medical School Building (MSB), have several internal corridors that accommodate low occupant loads that lead to converging primary exit access corridors. Such a design lends itself to some items being allowed in the hallway while still maintaining an appropriate width of exit access.  However, the placement of any objects in these areas is subject to the review and approval of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), based on the guidelines described in this policy.

The use of the clear width of a primary exit access corridor for overnight or longer storage of construction material, equipment scheduled for installation, supplies pending movement into labs or offices, or similar items which could jeopardize emergency egress is expressly prohibited.

All emergency equipment, including safety showers, eyewash stations, fire hose cabinets, fire alarm devices, fire extinguishers, and electrical panels, must have unobstructed access (i.e., > 3 feet) at all times. This restriction applies to both designated primary and secondary exit access corridor areas.

All safety signs/warnings must be unblocked and clearly visible at all times.

This policy does not prohibit the temporary parking of an occasional object such as a laboratory cart in the hallway which may be quickly moved by the occupants in order to provide full access. Provisions for such equipment to be temporarily located on the side of a corridor which has been authorized for equipment or storage are found in Sections C and E.

B. Stairwells

Only equipment required for emergency response is allowed to be located or stored in stairwells. This restriction is specifically stated in the Life Safety Code.  In addition, storage is not allowed under stairs.

C. Allowances, Restrictions and Requirements for Corridor use

Materials or equipment may be located in certain internal corridors provided that all of the following criteria are met.

The corridor is NOT considered a primary exit access corridor.

The minimum prescribed width of the internal corridor is maintained clear and unobstructed as determined by code requirements and floor occupant load. EHS should be contacted for corridor clear width issues.

Materials and equipment are placed on only one side of the internal corridor. The same side should be utilized on all floors throughout the building to enable the occupants to become familiar with a clear path pattern regardless of the floor they occupy at the time of an emergency. In the MSB internal corridors, placement should be consistently on the north side of the internal hallways.

All materials or equipment placed in an internal corridor must have approval from EHS as indicated by a label on the object.

D. Materials Specifically Excluded From Hallway Storage

Nothing in Section C prohibits the incidental use of the corridor for delivery of restricted materials, the movement of such items from room to room or similar activities. Manipulative procedures involving the restricted items listed below (weighing, processing, etc.) are prohibited.

1.  Flammable or Combustible Liquids

Flammable or combustible liquids are prohibited from all corridors.  Flammable storage cabinets, flammable storage refrigerators and other flammable storage devices are not permitted in the corridors.

The restriction on the storage or use of flammable and combustible liquids in corridors is intended to eliminate fuel sources which, if ignited, could involve a large area and would prevent emergency egress. With the presence of liquid materials, there also is the potential for the accumulation of flammable vapors since ventilation rates in corridors are substantially lower than those in laboratories.

2.  Compressed Gas Cylinders - All Sizes

Compressed gas cylinders are prohibited from all corridors.

Cylinders containing compressed gases present a particular hazard because of their high pressure. A single cylinder can reach a speed of 35 mph in 1/10th of a second if the valve mechanism breaks. In addition, some cylinders are not provided with a means of venting the contents if the internal pressure exceeds the design limits of the cylinder. While the same hazards exist within a laboratory, their consequences are more likely to be confined.

3.  Liquefied gases (except as noted)

Although liquefied gases (e.g., cryogenic liquids) often present equal or greater hazards than compressed gases, the typical equipment using liquid nitrogen as a freezer supply or serving as a refrigerator backup is considered to represent minimal risk and would be permitted if properly located in a recessed area of the corridor.

4.  Radioactive materials (except as noted)

The use or storage of radioactive materials in corridors is specifically prohibited, except for the amount of radioactive material in actual use within film cassettes in a locked freezer.

Radioactive wastes are not to be placed in corridors in preparation for pick up by disposal personnel. Nothing in this section would preclude the transportation of sources or radioactive specimens through the corridors; however, such activities are to be conducted in a manner that minimizes the chances of contamination through spillage or breakage and maintains radiation levels within acceptable limits.

5.  Biohazardous (Infectious) agents

The use or storage of known biohazardous or infectious agents in corridors is specifically prohibited. Biological or medical waste are not to be stored or placed in corridors in preparation for pick up by disposal personnel or prior to being processed (e.g., autoclaved). Nothing in this section would preclude the transportation of biological waste through the corridors; however, such activities are to be conducted in a manner that minimizes the chances of contamination through spillage or breakage by using secondary containment.

6.  Waste and Recyclable Materials

Waste, waste containers and recycle containers are only permitted in recessed areas in all corridors. These containers shall not block access to emergency equipment (pull stations, fire extinguishers, etc.) or exit doors. The number of containers shall be limited to one trash container and one container for each type of recyclable waste.

E. Equipment which, by design or use, could present significant hazards under routine or emergency conditions.

Some classes of equipment may be safely operated in the corridor. The intent of the university's policy is to restrict equipment, which by design, operation or use may present undue risk. For example, refrigerators or freezers containing only non-restricted material do not present any unique hazards and are permitted. However, the user should consider the potential risk associated with the material stored, the frequency of access (regular and frequent access increases the probability of accidental breakage) and the consequences of electrical or equipment failure. Such units can also periodically leak or be a source of condensation, so considerations for slip hazards should also be included.

Equipment designed to operate under either positive or negative pressure must be located within a laboratory. There is a clear risk of pressure-related explosions or implosions in addition to the risks that may be associated with the agents or compounds used in such equipment.

Frequently used equipment which has the potential to contain hazardous substances or agents such as incubators, drying ovens, shakers and centrifuges are not allowed in the corridors.

Other types of equipment not permitted in corridors are those utilizing high voltage (e.g., some equipment used for electrophoresis) or those posing mechanical hazards such as unguarded belts, pulleys or gears. Normally, duplicating or copy machines, which do not utilize flammable liquids, are permitted in recessed areas, provided that excess paper stock is not stored in an open manner.

1.  Construction Items

Construction materials may be stored temporarily in the corridor during the workday, as long as the minimum prescribed clear corridor width is maintained. Construction materials shall not remain in the corridor overnight. Equipment and supplies shall not, under any circumstances, be stored in stairwells.

2.  Surplus Property

Equipment and supplies cannot be abandoned in corridors, exits, designated areas of refuge or stairwells. Unneeded property should be disposed of in accordance with university surplus policies. Items may need to be evaluated for the presence of any hazards and cleared by EHS before the Surplus Department will remove the item from the area.

3.  Waste Containers

Containers for the storage/disposal of waste materials shall not be left in the corridor, except in recessed areas. This restriction applies to both full and empty containers.

F. Location of material or equipment must not prevent emergency access to exit doorways, emergency equipment or utility panels.  An adequate clear space must be provided on one or both sides of all doorways serving occupied spaces.

Any material storage in corridors must be contained within suitable metal cabinets with metal doors. Material storage outside of metal cabinets or on open shelves is prohibited.

This requirement permits storage in standard file cabinets and similar metal furnishings. Storage on top of cabinets is not allowed in order to eliminate potential injury from material or equipment that may become accidentally dislodged. Combustible materials (e.g., paper, wood, plastic or similar materials) are to be stored within the cabinets, since they constitute a fuel source which would serve to spread fire through the corridor. Combustible furniture and cabinets can also serve as a fuel source and shall not be stored or used in the corridor.

G. Electrical service

Electrical service to authorized equipment shall be provided by permanent installation of an easily accessible protected outlet located adjacent to the equipment. Extension cords are prohibited.

The use of extension cords or equipment power cords passing through doorways or walls is prohibited. Modifying a fire rated building component (wall, door or door frame) so that an electrical cord will pass through negates the fire rating of the component. The user should request that Facility Operations determine the availability of additional power and whether the additional heat load generated by the equipment can be accommodated. Since the cooling capacity for corridors is limited, elevated ambient temperatures may adversely affect equipment operation.

H. Furniture in Corridors

Limited amounts of furniture may be utilized in the corridors provided they meet the specifications and requirements below.

  • Furniture is not located in the primary exit access corridors.
  • The furniture must not reduce the width of the corridor to less than the required width.
  • At no time may the furniture obstruct the flow of traffic in the corridor.
  • The furniture does not block ready access to emergency equipment such as safety showers, eye wash stations, fire hose connections, fire extinguishers, etc.
  • The furniture must be of non-combustible materials.
  • The amount of furniture must be kept at a minimum (e.g. a common area for all personnel to share).
  • The furniture and its placement must be approved by EHS.

I. Approval Process

Approval to place allowed items in internal corridors or designed recessed areas in primary exit access corridors can be obtained by calling EHS.  Note that some buildings and schools have their own additional corridor policies above and beyond this policy.


ContactTelephoneEmail/Web Address
Environmental Health and Safety 713-500-8100

Revised 11/13