Q: Can a chair lift device be installed in an exit stairwell? What are the regulations?
A: The Life Safety Code and the local building codes set minimum widths of the required exit stairwells, pertaining to the required doors to the exit stairwells, and they set a minimum number of exit stairwells the hospital must have. These are all calculated by the architect who designed the facility to accommodate people exiting the building during an emergency. To install a chair-lift device in a stairwell would violate these conditions and would cause the building to be non-compliant with the Life Safety Code.
The following sections of the 2012 Life Safety Code set the requirements for minimum widths of required egress components:
- 188.8.131.52.1.1(b) 36 inches clear width for existing stairs
- 184.108.40.206.1.2(A) 36 inches clear width for new stairs serving less than 50 occupants
- 220.127.116.11.1.2(B) 44 inches clear width for new stairs serving 50 to less than 2000 occupants
- 18.104.22.168.1.2(B) 56 inches clear width for new stairs serving 2000 or more occupants
- 22.214.171.124 The minimum clear width of doors in existing healthcare occupancies is 32 inches
- 126.96.36.199 The minimum clear width of doors in existing healthcare occupancies is 28 inches where evacuation by bed, gurney or wheelchair is required
These are minimum width requirements, and actual widths would have to increase based on the number of occupants calculated to use these components.
Section 188.8.131.52.3.1 of the 2012 LSC says nothing may be installed in exit enclosures that could interfere with egress. I suspect a chair-lift would interfere with egress.
If you have a stairwell that is not an exit stairwell, then the possibility may be that a chair-lift could be installed as long as minimum aisle widths (36 inches) are met. Check with your design professional and your state and local AHJs to determine if that is possible.
I’m also told that the ADA requirements do not allow chair lifts in exit stairwells, and check with your state department of hospital licensing to see if they have any additional restrictions.