Linen Chute

Q: I have a 3-story linen chute in our facility. The chute is enclosed within a 1-hour shaft from the 1st floor deck through the roof of the facility. In the basement level of the facility, the chute is not enclosed above the laid-in ceiling tiles and the walls to the discharge room also terminate just above the laid-in ceiling tiles. In addition, the chute door is held open by a magnetic device which releases upon activation of the fire alarm system. Should the chute be enclosed above the ceiling tiles in the discharge room? If the chute door is held open with the magnet device, should the discharge room walls extend to the deck above to rate the room for a continuation of the linen chute? We currently have a 60-minute door with a closer installed on the discharge room as well.

A: The scenario that you describe concerning the linen chute discharge rooms requires a little thought, and the answer depends on a couple of issues.

  1. Is the facility classified as a healthcare occupancy (hospital, nursing home, etc.)?
  2. What year was the facility with the linen chute constructed? We need to determine if ‘new construction’ requirements or ‘existing construction’ requirements are enforced.
  3. Is the linen chute protected with automatic sprinklers?

Now, I will make some assumptions here… I envision your facility to be a hospital, built many years ago and chapter 19 “Existing Healthcare Occupancy” requirements apply. I will also assume your linen chute is sprinklered. The questions that you raise involves the linen chute which is unprotected above the ceiling in the basement discharge room. You ask if the linen chute needs to be enclosed from the ceiling level to the deck above. I would say it does NOT need to be enclosed, PROVIDED the shaft that the linen chute is in is sealed at the deck level in the basement discharge room. That seal needs to be 1-hour fire rated, not just sealed with sheet metal.

There is a provision in the Life Safety Code that allows the shaft to be unsealed and open to the basement discharge room, provided the discharge room is protected with barriers that are constructed to the same fire rating as the shaft. But that is not the case in your scenario, as you said the basement discharge room walls terminate at the ceiling. I am puzzled though by your comments that the door to the basement linen chute discharge room is 1-hour fire rated. Why is there a fire rated door to a room that is not fire rated? Wouldn’t be the first time a fire rated door was installed where it was not needed.

So, based on your description I would say the linen chute is fine not being enclosed above the ceiling provided the shaft itself is tightly sealed with 1-hour fire rated construction where the chute pokes through the deck and into the basement discharge room. But your room is a problem since it is not a 1-hour fire rated room.

The magnetic hold-open device on the linen chute discharge door is fine, provided it actually closes and latches upon a fire alarm activation. I have seen many of these types of held-open doors that do not close due to too much trash or linen piling up into the room or cart. Take a look at this at various times of the day and different days of the week and make sure staff is keeping this chute door open and clear. You will need a smoke detector inside the room that released the magnet when it senses smoke.

Another bit of advice… even though you didn’t ask for it. The linen chute discharge door is a fire rated door, and as such, it cannot be repaired in the field, other than to replace approved fire rated door hardware. In other words, you are not permitted to weld the door when it becomes cracked and you are not permitted to replace the latching hardware with non-fire rated hardware.  All you can do is purchase a new fire rated chute door assembly and install that.

Linen Chute Doors

Q: My question relates to fire ratings of linen chute doors. Do linen chute doors in an existing structure have to be rated if the room that houses the linen chute is protected by a 2 hour wall and the door for this room is rated at 90 minutes?

A: Yes, according to NFPA 82 (1999 edition) section 3-2.4.1, the chute doors must be fire-rated in a vertical linen chute enclosure. There is no exception in NFPA 82 for the chute doors in a vertical chute that opens into a room that has the same fire resistive rating as the shaft for the vertical chute, to not be fire rated.

Section 8.2.5.3 of the 2000 Life Safety Code which allows shafts to terminate in a room with the same fire resistive rating as the shaft does not apply in this situation because the shaft does not terminate at the room. It continues up through the building and extends (in part) through the roof. However, it may apply for the collection room that is at the bottom of the shaft for the linen chute, provided the room meets all of the requirements of section 8.2.5.3.

Linen Chute Doors

Q: Do linen chute doors have to be locked? Our risk manager says they are required to be locked, but I don’t see anything in the LSC that says that. What are the requirements for chute doors in regards to the LSC?

A: I will assume you are referring to an existing occupancy. There is no requirement in the Life Safety Code to lock linen (or trash) chute doors. Also, there are no direct standards from Joint Commission, HFAP or DNV that require locks on linen (or trash) chute doors. Where hospitals get into trouble with this issue is failing to assess the perceived risk. Any surveyor or inspector can look at a chute door that is not locked and ask to see the risk assessment that allows the door to be left unlocked. The perceived risk is that an unauthorized individual may open the door and fall into the chute. An assessment could analyze that risk and determine if it is a low, medium or high risk for that particular area. If the chute door is located in an area where there are children, patients or visitors, then the risk is naturally higher than in areas where there are no children. Other factors must be assessed as well, such as behavioral health or Alzheimer’s units, forensic units and unsupervised areas. Whenever a risk assessment is conducted, make sure you include a wide variety of stakeholders in order to gain a well-rounded perspective. Once the assessment is completed, have your Safety Committee review it and approve it, and get their decision posted in the minutes. For new construction, access to linen and trash chute doors must be within a room, and either the chute door or the access room door must be locked, but not both.

Trash Chute Door

Wow… What a scary site to see. Trash bags caught in the trash chute in such a way that it prevents the chute doors from automatically closing. And make no mistake about it, the trash chute doors are required to close and latch, automatically.

Section 19.5.4.3 of the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code requires trash chutes to discharge into trash collection rooms and the trash collection rooms cannot be used for any other purpose. So, that means you cannot store items that are not related to the trash chute in the room, such as floor scrubber machines.

The scene in the picture is commonly caused by the failure to empty the cart in time, before it fills up to the point where the bags of trash prevent the chute doors from closing. In today’s economy, it is not all that uncommon to learn that staff reductions in the Environmental Services (housekeeping) department prevent adequate staffing to remove the trash bags. While this may be a legitimate reason, someone at this hospital forgot the importance of removing the trash on a regular basis. They need to make this a priority.

From a life safety point of view, it would be better to remove the cart and allow the bags to fall onto the floor. This way it would take a lot more bags of trash to pile up before it would obstruct the chute door from closing. I’m not sure what the hospital’s Infection Control professional would say about that, but I would suggest it as an alternative if the ES department cannot empty the cart often enough.

If you decide to allow the bags of trash to accumulate on the floor in the trash chute discharge room, I suggest you conduct a risk assessment to analyze the risks to patient safety. This way, you can demonstrate to a surveyor that the risks were considered if the surveyor has a problem with bags o’ trash scattered on the floor.

By the way… There are multiple documented incidents of compromised trash chute doors, not unlike the obstruction in the picture, that lead to catastrophic, tragic fires in hospitals, with great loss of life. This is a potentially serious issue and needs to be corrected as soon as the problem is discovered.

 

 

Locked Linen and Waste Chute Doors?

Q: Can you please direct me to where it says we have to have locks on our linen and waste chutes? What is the requirement and where does it come from?

A: According to the 2000 edition of the LSC, section 19.5.4.1 requires new chutes to comply with section 9.5 which requires compliance with NFPA 82. NFPA 82 (1999 edition), section 3-2.4.3.2 says that either the chute access door must be locked or the door to the service room where the chute access door is located must be locked, but not both. Therefore, any chute that has been installed or altered since March 1, 2003, must comply with NFPA 82 and have locking doors. Existing chutes must comply with the code or standard in force at the time the chute was constructed or altered, or it must comply with the requirements of chapter 19, whichever is more restrictive. Chapter 19 says existing chutes do not have to comply with NFPA 82, therefore, the access door does not have to be locked. However, an assessment should be made to determine if there is a risk to safety for patients in the area, such as pediatric, geriatric and behavioral health patients. As always, please check with your local or state authorities to determine if they have any requirements on this subject.

 

Dust mop chute

Q: We have an existing 24-inch diameter chute throughout our building that is designed for housekeepers to shake out the dry dust mops into the chute. A ventilation fan takes the dust into a collection bin. The issue with this system is the 24-inch chute is not enclosed with a fire-rated enclosure, and we were told that this chute needs to have an enclosure. What do you say?

A: All vertical openings through a fire-rated floor assembly are required to be protected in accordance with Section 8.2.5 of NFPA 101, Life Safety Code® (LSC), 2000 edition. This pneumatic rubbish chute is no different than any other chute, such as a linen or trash chute, and requires a fire-rated enclosure that extends from the floor to the deck above on each story. Even if the sheet metal duct is sealed tightly around the floor or deck, the thickness of the sheet metal does not have an appropriate fire resistance rating to meet the requirements of section 8.2.5. Since you do not have any fire-rated enclosure now, any enclosure that you add will need to meet new construction requirements. If the vertical enclosure extends to four or more stories, then the enclosure would have to be two-hour fire rated. Otherwise you need to make the enclosure at least one-hour fire rated. Section 19.5.4 of the LSC has these additional requirements for existing rubbish chutes:
• If the chute opens directly onto a corridor, it must have a 1-hour fire-rated door assembly
• The chute must be protected with automatic sprinklers
• The chute collection room can serve no other purpose