Signs on Doors to Rooms Used for Storage of Cylinders of Oxygen

Q: If there are oxygen tanks stored on a unit that does not exceed the 12 tank threshold, does the door to the storage area where the tanks are stored need to have a sign indicating that tanks are stored within?

A: No. Rooms with less than 300 cubic feet of oxidizing gases (or about 12 E cylinders) does NOT have to have a sign warning of oxidizing gases stored within. However, the door to a storage room containing oxidizing gases in quantities of 300 cubic feet or more  must have a precautionary sign, readable from a distance of 5 feet, and must be displayed on each door or gate of the storage room or enclosure. The sign must include the following wording as a minimum:

CAUTION:

OXIDIZING GAS(ES) STORED WITHIN

NO SMOKING

This requirement is found in NFPA 99-2012, sections 11.3.4.1 and 11.3.4.2, and applies to all healthcare organizations, new and existing. On this particular section of NFPA 99, there is no exception in having this sign if the facility is posted as being a NO SMOKING facility. That applies to other sign requirements where oxygen therapy is in use on a patient, but that exception does not apply to a storage room containing oxidizing gases.

So, as you are conducting your routine building tour, please keep an eye out for the required signs on any door where oxidizing gases are stored in quantities of 300 cubic feet or more.

Door to Medical Gas Storage Room

Q: I have an existing medical gas storage room in an outpatient surgery center that was constructed with 1-hour barriers and ¾ hour fire rated door. A surveyor cited me because he says the door has to be constructed of non-combustible or limited combustible materials. The door that is installed is a high pressure decorative laminate with a bonded agri-fiber core with a 45 minute fire resistance rating. I maintain that doors are exempted from the noncombustible/limited-combustible provision. Who’s correct?

A: One scenario that the surveyor may hold you accountable to is medical gas systems in ambulatory care occupancies are regulated by the Life Safety Code, and not by NFPA 99. The Life Safety Code (2000 edition) would look at medical gas room as a hazardous room, and for ambulatory care occupancies, a hazardous room compares their level of hazard to their surrounding area. The section that regulates hazards in ambulatory care occupancies is section 20/21.3.2 which refers you to 38/39.3.2, which in turn refers you to section 8.4. Section 8.4 essentially says any area with a higher level of hazard than the surrounding area needs to be protected with fire protection sprinklers, or 1-hour fire rated barriers. Section 8.2.3.2.3.1 requires a 1-hour fire rated barrier to have at least a ¾ hour fire rated door as long as the fire barrier is not used as a vertical opening (such as a rated shaft) or an exit enclosure (such as a stairwell). Hopefully, you don’t have the med gas room in a stairwell, so a properly labeled ¾ hour rated doors is acceptable, and in this scenario I would say the surveyor is mistaken. However, if the surveyor requires that you comply with NFPA 99 in regards to medical gas systems, then that is an entirely different situation. Section 4-3.1.1.2 (a) 11 (a) of the 1999 edition of NFPA 99 requires doors to be constructed of non-combustible or limited combustible materials. If the 45-minute fire rated door that you have is laminated with limited combustible materials, then it would not be compliant with NFPA 99 (1999 edition), and I would say the surveyor is correct. Section 3.3.118 in the Life Safety Code defines what limited combustible materials are. I suggest you contact the manufacturer of the door and ask them to produce documentation whether or not the door meets the heat values stipulated in section 3.3.118, that may qualify the door as being constructed with limited combustible materials. Now, on another point of view, if the surveyor requires you to comply with NFPA 99, 2005 edition, the door to this room still has to be constructed from non-combustible or limited combustible materials, but it is no longer permitted to be ¾ hour fire rated, but must be 1-hour fire rated, according to section 5.1.3.3.2(4). The 2012 edition of NFPA 99 has the same requirement.

Oxygen Storage in Business Occupancies

Q: Our hospital has an offsite building for our cardiac rehab, physical therapy, and pulmonary rehab programs. It also houses our business office and some physician offices. The building is classified as a Business Occupancy. What are the requirements for storing oxygen cylinders in a non-rated storage room?

A: A business occupancy that provides services for cardiac rehab, physical therapy, and pulmonary rehab programs is considered to be a health care facility. Assuming you are either Joint Commission accredited, or receive federal reimbursement monies for Medicare or Medicaid services, you are required to comply with NFPA 99 (1999 edition) Health Care Facilities standard. According to section 1-2, NFPA 99 (1999 edition) applies to all health care facilities, and section 2-1 defines a health care facility where medical care is provided. Chapter 13 in NFPA 99 is the chapter for “other” health care facilities which are not hospitals, nursing homes and limited care facilities. Section 13-3.8 requires all gas equipment to conform to chapter 8. Section 8-3.1.11 lists the storage requirements for nonflammable gases greater than 3,000 cubic feet and quantities less than 3,000 cubic feet which are similar (but not the same) as those requirements for hospitals. For storage of quantities of nonflammable gas greater than 3,000 cubic feet, the requirements are the same as those for hospitals, which are found in section 4-3.1.1.2 of NFPA 99. However, for quantities less than 3,000 cubic feet, there is a difference in storing nonflammable gas in quantities of 300 cubic feet or less. Hospitals have the advantage of having a special dispensation granted by The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), in the form of S&C Letter 07-10, published January 12, 2007. In this letter, CMS allows hospitals (but not medical offices or clinics) the advantage of following the 2005 edition of NFPA 99, which permits quantities up to 300 cubic feet of nonflammable gas to not be stored in any special rooms or areas. This exception for ‘up to 300 cubic feet’ is not found in the 1999 edition of NFPA 99. Therefore, your business occupancy must store all nonflammable gas cylinders in quantities from 0 to 3,000 cubic feet in accordance with section 8-3.1.11.2, which requires a specially designated room which has a door capable of being locked, and all oxidizing gases in this room must be separated from combustibles by 20 feet (or 5 feet if the room is protected with automatic sprinklers), or the oxidizing gases are to be stored in a flammable cabinet with a fire rating of at least 30 minutes.