Q: We just had an outside company update our SOC (Statement of Conditions) and even though we haven’t changed anything in 20 years he noted what he considered to be a deficiency. The doors into the OR rooms do not have positively latching hardware even though they come off an egress hallway. Is there an allowance for usage vs. Life Safety Code? Latching all of the OR doors would become more of an infection control issue since staff would have to reach out and grab a door knob potentially infecting theirs hands instead of backing into the rooms. Is this something our AHJ would have discretion over? Unless there is some way to break it up the area is too big to be considered a suite.
A: You mentioned that the entrance doors to the operating rooms are from an egress hallway, and the Surgery department does not qualify as a suite-of-rooms since it is too large in square footage. Therefore, the door to the operating rooms would have to positively latch, since they open onto the corridor. But, you asked if there are “allowances” in the Life Safety Code that would allow these doors to continue to be non-latching. Yes, there are, but they are not always the best options to take. Here are my suggestions on how to resolve this problem. First, I would do whatever I could to make the OR area qualify as a suite-of-rooms. Work with your architect to design a way to create walls and doors to lower the total square footage to no more than 10,000 square feet. Secondly, consider requesting an equivalency from your authority having jurisdiction on a suite of rooms that is too large (see Q&A on over-sized suites of rooms, posted February 28, 2013). Thirdly, if the two suggestions above are not an option for you, then you MUST install positive latching hardware on the doors. This is not as bad of an option as you implied. I disagree that positive latching hardware would be an infection control issue, as there are numerous options in hardware designs that area available which are actuated by elbows and hips. Positive latching hardware is on thousands of operating room doors and there is no report or indication that it is an infection control issue.