May 15 2017

Restricted Access to Electrical Closets

Category: Electrical,Questions and AnswersBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Q: My questions are in relation to access control into electrical closets and life safety equipment closets. We have several electrical closets “locked down” by our IT department because they have installed network switches in these closets. One closet in particular also has an ATS switch and our fire alarm panel for that building. This closet is locked down to those who have “card access”. There are several closets that have life safety equipment inside that are also locked down with only card access. My questions are:

  1. Are there any compliance codes to refer to in accordance with life safety that states directly to our issue?
  2. Are there compliances that state “qualified persons” for access to electrical closets?
  3. Access to these electrical closets is limited. What codes or compliance regulation could this be violating?

A: From a Life Safety Code perspective the only compliance regulation that may apply concerns doors locked in the path of egress, which is section 19.2.2.2.4 of the 2012 Life Safety Code. It is permissible to lock the door going into the closet, but once you’re in the closet you cannot lock the door getting out of the closet. There are exceptions, and for closet it is rare to see any of the exceptions used under 19.2.2.2.4. Otherwise, I am not aware of any Life Safety Code issues that would prevent the locking of doors. In fact, HIPAA regulations would require the locking of closets that contain access to health information, so that is why the IT people want the doors to the intermediate distribution frame servers locked.

There are no regulations in the NFPA standards that state ‘qualified persons’ only for access to electrical closets

In an emergency, authorized individuals need to have access to electrical circuit breaker panels, disconnect controls, and the fire alarm panel. As long as the IT people allow unlimited access to certain Engineering-type staff (i.e. maintenance people) to the electrical equipment in these closets, I don’t see any problems.