Locked Electrical Panels

Q: Can you give me a code reference for the need for electrical panels to be locked? We were cited by a surveyor for not locking our electrical panels.

A: As far as I know, there is no direct standard or code reference that requires electrical panels to be locked. However, that does not mean hospitals cannot be cited for unlocked electrical circuit breaker panels, in some applications. Section 4.6.1.2 of the 2000 edition of the LSC says any requirements that are essential for the safety of building occupants and that are not specifically provided for in the LSC can be determined by the AHJ. So most accreditors have determined that electric circuit circuits on critical equipment that can be deactivated by unauthorized individuals is a safety risk, and if not addressed with either a lock or a risk assessment, most likely will be written up. Joint Commission has addressed this in their FAQ’s and says while there are no requirements for electrical panels to be locked, the organization should conduct a risk assessment. Generally, electrical panels in certain patient care areas, such as pediatrics, geriatrics and behavioral health units, or public spaces and corridors not under direct supervision should be assessed with consideration given to keeping them locked. Electrical panels located in secure areas that are accessible to authorized staff may not need to be locked. If you’re looking for suggestions, I would suggest a risk assessment be made of any electrical panel that is not secure from unauthorized access, for two reasons:

  1. The risk assessment will provide the organization a clear course of action to take concerning locking the panels; and:
  2. The risk assessment will provide the organization with paperwork (documentation) that should protect them from any findings in the future.