203, 206 and 215 Employee Work Areas
Common Use Circulation Paths in Employee Work Areas. The 1991 Standards at section 4.1.1(3), and the 2010 Standards at section 203.9, require employee work areas in new construction and alterations only to be designed and constructed so that individuals with disabilities can approach, enter, and exit the areas. Section 206.2.8 of the 2010 Standards requires accessible common use circulation paths within employee work areas unless they are subject to exceptions in sections 206.2.8, 403.5, 405.5, and 405.8. The ADA, 42 U.S.C. 12112 (b)(5)(A) and (B), requires employers to make reasonable accommodations in the workplace for individuals with disabilities, which may include modifications to work areas when needed. Providing increased access in the facility at the time of construction or alteration will simplify the process of providing reasonable accommodations when they are needed.
The requirement for accessible common use circulation paths will not apply to existing facilities pursuant to the readily achievable barrier removal requirement. The Department has consistently taken the position that barrier removal requirements do not apply to areas used exclusively by employees because the purpose of title III is to ensure that access is provided to clients and customers. See Appendix B to the 1991 regulation implementing title III, 28 CFR part 36.
Several exceptions to section 206.2.8 of the 2010 Standards exempt common use circulation paths in employee work areas from the requirements of section 402 where it may be difficult to comply with the technical requirements for accessible routes due to the size or function of the area:
•Employee work areas, or portions of employee work areas, that are less than 300 square feet and are elevated 7 inches or more above the ground or finish floor, where elevation is essential to the function of the space, are exempt.
•Common use circulation paths within employee work areas that are less than 1,000 square feet and are defined by permanently installed partitions, counters, casework, or furnishings are exempt. Kitchens in quick service restaurants, cocktail bars, and the employee side of service counters are frequently covered by this exception.
•Common use circulation paths within employee work areas that are an integral component of equipment are exempt. Common use circulation paths within large pieces of equipment in factories, electric power plants, and amusement rides are covered by this exception.
•Common use circulation paths within exterior employee work areas that are fully exposed to the weather are exempt. Farms, ranches, and outdoor maintenance facilities are covered by this exception.
The 2010 Standards in sections 403.5 and 405.8 also contain exceptions to the technical requirements for accessible routes for circulation paths in employee work areas:
•Machinery and equipment are permitted to reduce the clear width of common use circulation paths where the reduction is essential to the function of the work performed. Machinery and equipment that must be placed a certain way to work properly, or for ergonomics or to prevent workplace injuries are covered by this exception.
•Handrails are not required on ramps, provided that they can be added in the future.
Commenters stated that the requirements set out in the 2010 Standards for accessible common use circulation paths in employee work areas are inappropriate, particularly in commercial kitchens, storerooms, and behind cocktail bars where wheelchairs would not be easily accommodated. These commenters further urged the Department not to adopt a requirement that circulation paths in employee work areas be at least 36 inches wide, including those at emergency exits.
These commenters misunderstand the scope of the provision. Nothing in the 2010 Standards requires all circulation paths in non-exempt areas to be accessible. The Department recognizes that building codes and fire and life safety codes, which are adopted by all of the states, require primary circulation paths in facilities, including employee work areas, to be at least 36 inches wide for purposes of emergency egress. Accessible routes also are at least 36 inches wide. Therefore, the Department anticipates that covered entities will be able to satisfy the requirement to provide accessible circulation paths by ensuring that their required primary circulation paths are accessible.
Individual employee work stations, such as a grocery checkout counter or an automobile service bay designed for use by one person, do not contain common use circulation paths and are not required to comply. Other work areas, such as stockrooms that typically have narrow pathways between shelves, would be required to design only one accessible circulation path into the stockroom. It would not be necessary to make each circulation path in the room accessible. In alterations it may be technically infeasible to provide accessible common use circulation paths in some employee work areas. For example, in a stock room of a department store significant existing physical constraints, such as having to move walls to avoid the loss of space to store inventory, may mean that it is technically infeasible (see section 106.5 "Defined Terms" of the 2010 Standards) to make even the primary common use circulation path in that stock room wide enough to be accessible. In addition, the 2010 Standards include exceptions for common use circulation paths in employee work areas where it may be difficult to comply with the technical requirements for accessible routes due to the size or function of the areas. The Department believes that these exceptions will provide the flexibility necessary to ensure that this requirement does not interfere with legitimate business operations.
Visible Alarms. Section 215.3 of the 2010 Standards provides that where employee work areas in newly constructed facilities have audible alarm coverage they are required to have wiring systems that are capable of supporting visible alarms that comply with section 702 of the 2010 Standards. The 1991 Standards, at section 4.1.1(3), require visible alarms to be provided where audible fire alarm systems are provided, but do not require areas used only by employees as work areas to be equipped with accessibility features. As applied to office buildings, the 1991 Standards require visible alarms to be provided in public and common use areas such as hallways, conference rooms, break rooms, and restrooms, where audible fire alarm systems are provided.
Commenters asserted that the requirements of section 215.3 of the 2010 Standards would be burdensome to meet. These commenters also raised concerns that all employee work areas within existing buildings and facilities must be equipped with accessibility features.
The commenters´ concerns about section 215.3 of the 2010 Standards represent a misunderstanding of the requirements applicable to employee work areas.
Newly constructed buildings and facilities merely are required to provide wiring so that visible alarm systems can be added as needed to accommodate employees who are deaf or hard of hearing. This is a minimal requirement without significant impact.
The other issue in the comments represents a misunderstanding of the Department´s existing regulatory requirements. Employee common use areas in covered facilities (e.g., locker rooms, break rooms, cafeterias, toilet rooms, corridors to exits, and other common use spaces) were required to be accessible under the 1991 Standards; areas in which employees actually perform their jobs are required to enable a person using a wheelchair or mobility device to approach, enter, and exit the area. The 2010 Standards require increased access through the accessible common use circulation path requirement, but neither the 1991 Standards nor the 2010 Standards require employee work stations to be accessible. Access to specific employee work stations is governed by title I of the ADA.