Jun 11 2018

Stairwell Exit Locked Door

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Q: Can a stairwell door that leads to the outside of a hospital be locked with a lock that requires a code to unlock it? I seem to recall that the doors could be on magnets that release upon activation of the fire alarm and that have a touch pad that releases the doors within 15 seconds.

A: No… it can’t. According to 19.2.2.2.4 of the 2012 LSC, doors in the means of egress must not be equipped with a latch or lock that requires the use of a tool or key from the egress side, unless otherwise permitted as follows:

  • Delayed egress locks (7.2.1.6.1)
  • Access-control locks (7.2.1.6.2)
  • Elevator lobby locks (7.2.1.6.3)
  • Clinical needs locks (19.2.2.2.5.1)
  • Specialized protective measure locks (19.2.2.2.5.2)

I don’t know where in the hospital this stairwell exit door is located, but let’s assume it does not qualify for clinical needs locks (psychiatric care patients), specialized protected measure locks (OB, Peds, Nursery, ICU, ER), and elevator lobby locks. That leaves delayed egress locks, which requires the entire building to be sprinklered, and access-control locks which do not lock the door in the path of egress, just in the path of ingress, neither of which allows the use of key-pads to unlock the door in the path of egress.

If you decide to use one of the approved exceptions for door locking, please make sure you read the appropriate section of the Life Safety Code and comply with everything it requires. Most surveyors are pretty well informed on the LSC requirements for door locks and they will hold you accountable.

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Apr 25 2018

Pharmacy Door Locks

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Q: Is it a common practice to keep pharmacy access controlled doors so they will not unlock on a fire alarm activation? Texas Pharmacy board requirements to secure medications is the reasoning behind this setup, which I feel is wrong. Narcotics are secured within the pharmacy area in a narcotics room, so the requirement for securing narcotics and meds is compliant, but I believe the main pharmacy door should release in the event of a fire alarm activation. Our fire alarm system is designed to activate as general alarm so all electrically locked doors other than the pharmacy release. Is there a standard or exception that will allow this type of set-up? The doors can be manually released from the inside, but my concern is the obstacle created by the access control when an emergent response is required.

A: You may be confusing the old NFPA 72 requirement that all doors in the required means of egress equipped with electrical locks have to unlock on a fire alarm signal. At one time, NFPA 72 did require that, but the Life Safety Code always over-rides referenced standards when there is a conflict. In actuality, the Life Safety Code governs in a situation like this. Besides, the technical committee for NFPA 72-2010 made a change to this requirement. In section 21.9.2 of NFPA 72-2010, it says electrically locked doors in a required means of egress must unlock as prescribed by other codes, laws, and standards. This is different than what previous editions of NFPA 72 said, and now NFPA 72-2010 is clear that it differs to other codes, laws, and standards (i.e. the Life Safety Code) regarding the need to unlock a electrically locked door in the means of egress during a fire alarm. There are only five (5) exceptions to 19.2.2.2.4 of the 2012 Life Safety Code, which says doors in the path of egress must not be locked:

  1. Delayed egress locks (7.2.1.6.1) which requires the door to unlock on a fire alarm signal
  2. Access-control locks (7.2.1.6.2) which requires the door to unlock on a fire alarm signal
  3. Elevator lobby locks (7.2.1.6.3) which requires the door to unlock on a fire alarm signal
  4. Clinical needs locks (19.2.2.2.5.1) which does NOT require the door to unlock on a fire alarm signal
  5. Specialized protective measure locks (19.2.2.2.5.2) which does require the door to unlock on a fire alarm signal.

But pharmacies would not qualify for clinical needs locks (used on psychiatric units), elevator lobby locks, or specialized protective measure locks (used on OB/nursery units, ICUs and ERs). That leaves delayed egress locks or access-control locks which must unlock the door on a fire alarm signal. So, your assessment is correct in that the pharmacy door in the required means of egress cannot remain electrically locked during a fire alarm signal. If you examine the Texas Pharmacy board requirements carefully, it probably says the pharmacy must be secured against unauthorized entry… not egress.

What many people forget: The Life Safety Code governs when it comes to the means of egress and over-rides other standards and codes. Getting out of the building in the event of a fire is paramount supersedes other laws, codes or standards. Why don’t you change the locks on the pharmacy doors and eliminate the electrical locks and install standard passage locks (not deadbolt locks) that do not require more than one action to operate the door? This way, the door would not be locked in the path of egress (getting out of the pharmacy) but would remain locked against unauthorized entry during a fire alarm. This is what I see other hospital pharmacies do.

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Mar 26 2018

Locked Exit Doors From Psychiatric Unit

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Q: I am a consultant and I have a 30% sprinklered high rise hospital with locked psychiatric units. The state authority made them unlock the stairwell doors under the 2000 LSC. The stairwell doors were locked with a key. With the 2012 LSC, can those doors have delayed egress installed for security of patients or does the entire building need to be sprinklered?  The smoke compartments into the stairs in question are sprinklered.

A: No… they cannot install delayed egress locks on any door in the building because section 7.2.1.6.1 of the 2012 LSC requires the entire building to be either fully protected with sprinklers or smoke detectors. I’ve yet to find a hospital that is fully protected with smoke detectors, so it is a safe bet it is not. Since the building is not fully protected with sprinklers, then they cannot install delayed egress locks (7.2.1.6.1), elevator lobby locks (7.2.1.6.3), or specialized protective measure locks (19.2.2.2.5.2). Their only recourse is to install clinical needs locks (19.2.2.2.5.1) or access-control locks (7.2.1.6.2, but access-control locks do not lock the door in the path of egress).

 

Did the state agency explain why they could not lock the stairwell exit doors via clinical needs locks (19.2.2.2.5.1)? Perhaps the hospital did not comply with all of the requirements found in 19.2.2.25.1, or perhaps it was a personal preference of the state inspector…

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Mar 05 2018

Med-Room Corridor Door

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Q: As I understand the Life Safety Code, doors opening from a patient floor corridor into a patient room do not have to latch. I have a room next to a patient room that we call a support room. It contains meds, a sink and an ice machine and has to be secured. It is not a rated opening, has a closure and is secured with a mag lock and keypad and has two ways to egress when in the room. Is this a OK scenario?

A: No… that scenario is not correct. The room you described must have a door that separates it from the corridor, and the door must latch. Take a look at 19.3.6.1 of the 2012 Life Safety Code that says corridors must be separated from all other areas by partitions unless otherwise permitted by one of the nine (9) exceptions. The med room is not one of the nine exceptions. Therefore, according to 19.3.6.3.5, the door must latch. You say it is equipped with a magnetic lock. Keep in mind a magnetic lock is not an acceptable substitute for a latch. If installed in accordance with section 7.2.1.6.2 (access-control locks, having a motion sensor and a ‘Push to Exit’ button on the egress side), then the magnetic lock is permitted, but the door still needs to have a latch. CMS does not permit the allowance for existing doors to not have positive latching hardware provided a force of 5-lbs. is applied to the latch edge.

Whoever told you that patient room doors do not have to latch was wrong. Patient rooms are also required to be separated from the corridor according to 19.3.6.1, and have doors that must latch, according to 19.3.6.3.5.

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Feb 24 2016

Strange Observations – Part 6

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Door with Conflicting SIgnage Web 2Continuing in a series of strange things that I have seen while consulting at hospitals….

This series of pictures is just plain sad… and wrong. The top picture shows a door in the path of egress with an ‘Exit’ sign over it. If you look closely, there is a magnetic lock on this door and there is a sign posted on the door as well. This door is in an exit access corridor and lead from one physician’s office area to another physician’s office area and for some reason was equipped with a magnetic lock. But the magnetic lock did not qualify for the exceptions to 19.2.2.2.4 of the 2000 LSC for delayed egress locks or access-control locks.

Take a look at the bottom picture… The picture is a close-up of the sign on the door. The sign says “This is not an exit…” but the ‘Exit’ sign over the door says “This is an exit”. That’s a conflict. To be sure, the door is an exit as this door was located in an exit access corridor and without the designated exit it would have been over a 100 foot dead-end corridor (which is not permitted). So, the exit is necessary.

But the conflicting signage is just wrong. Just because one physician’s office did not want people exiting into his area, you cannot lock the door and say the door is not an exit.

Close up of Door With Conflicting Signage Web 2I remember we tried to find out what actually releases the magnetic lock and the staff that I was with could not say. They said they were not sure if it released on a fire alarm and they checked with security and it did not release on any signal that security could transmit.

This is the type of deficiency that will lead to an Immediate Jeopardy decision and cause all sorts of headaches for a hospital.

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Feb 10 2016

Strange Observations – Part 4

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 12:00 am
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Deadbolt on Exit Door Web 2Continuing in a series of strange things that I have seen while consulting at hospitals….

This is a picture of a door to an exit stairwell. Note that there is a deadbolt lock on the door above the fire exit hardware. That is so not allowed, according to 19.2.2.2.4 of the 2000 LSC. You cannot lock a door in the path of egress that requires the use of a tool or a key. (There are some exceptions but this door does not qualify).

Also, the sign on the door indicates it is a delayed egress lock but it says the door can be opened in 30 seconds. Section 7.2.1.6.1 allows for a 30 second delay but only when it is approved by the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ).  Most national AHJs for hospitals do not approve of the 30 second delay so this is not permitted. (Some hospitals mistakenly believe that the local or state fire marshal is the only AHJ they need to ask permission, but they don’t realize that the accreditation organizations and CMS are AHJs as well.) If you want to utilize an exception in the LSC whereby it is permitted with the AHJ’s permission, then you need to have permission from all the AHJs who have authority over hospitals:

 

  • CMS (Federal agency who controls Medicare/Medicaid reimbursements)
  • Accreditation organization
  • State agency who license hospitals
  • State fire marshal
  • Local fire inspector
  • Insurance company

The likelihood of getting all of them to agree on an exception to the LSC is slim, if not impossible.

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Feb 26 2015

Expert Witness

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 5:00 am
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imagesXLH1EQVPI received a telephone call recently from a lawyer that asked me if I would be willing to serve as an expert witness in a pending litigation suit. The situation of the lawsuit is a patient who was admitted to the inpatient psychiatric unit of a hospital busted the protective cover over the fire alarm manual pull station, and activated the fire alarm system. The entrance doors to the psychiatric unit unlocked on the fire alarm, and the patient ran out, climbed to the roof of the facility and jumped off.

Now the family of the patient is suing the hospital and the fire alarm company who installed the interface between the door locks and the fire alarm system. The plaintiff’s lawyer is arguing that the interface should never have been installed and the doors should not have unlocked upon activation of the fire alarm system. I agree with the plaintiff’s lawyer, but the problem is, it was the defense’s lawyer who contacted me.

The two major codes and standards that apply in this situation are the NFPA 72 National Fire Alarm Code (1999 edition), and the NFPA 101 Life Safety Code (2000 edition). The Life Safety Code (LSC) allows clinical needs locks on doors in the path of egress, but only in healthcare occupancies (hospitals). They are not permitted in any other occupancy. These types of locks are permitted where the “clinical needs of the patients require specialized security measures for their safety, provided that staff can readily unlock such doors at all times”. Clinical needs locks are permitted for Behavioral Health units, such as psychiatric and Alzheimer units, to prevent patients from leaving the unit unauthorized, and potentially harming themselves or others.  Clinical needs locks requires all staff who work on that unit (which includes physicians, nurses, aids, clerical, maintenance, foodservice, housekeeping, etc.) to have a key or device to unlock the door on their person at all times. [Code reference: 19.2.2.2.4, Exception No. 1, 2000 edition of the LSC].

But when it comes to connecting those clinical needs locks to the fire alarm system so they automatically unlock on a fire alarm activation, the codes are not so clear. Other permissible locks, such as delayed egress locks and access control locks, are required by code to be connected to the fire alarm system and automatically unlock the door whenever there is an alarm. However, there is no such similar language for clinical needs locks to unlock on an alarm. In addition, NFPA 72 section 3-9.7.1 and 3-9.7.2 says if you have a lock on an exit door it must be connected to the fire alarm system, and it must unlock the door on a fire alarm. However, the exception to 3-9.7.2 essentially says this is not required if an AHJ says so, or if another code says so. So, we go back to the Life Safety Code, and we see that delayed egress locks and access control locks are required to unlock on an alarm, but the section on clinical needs locks is very silent on the subject. When a code is silent on a subject that means it is open for interpretation. Therefore, section 3-9.7 of NFPA 72 does not apply to clinical needs locks in a hospital, because the interpretation Life Safety Code permits it. It is documented that psychiatric patients are astute enough to actuate a fire alarm to unlock the exit doors. Therefore, the code is available to be interpreted in such a way to not require clinical needs locks to unlock the doors in the path of egress on activation of the fire alarm system provided all staff carry a key to unlock the door in case of an emergency.

But who makes that interpretation? Usually the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) makes that interpretation. Section 4.6.1.1 of the 2000 LSC says the AHJ shall determine whether the provisions of the LSC are met. But when the AHJ does not issue an interpretation, then it is up to the individual organization’s to decide. As far as I know, there is no national AHJ for healthcare that has it written in their standards that clinical needs locks should not be connected to the fire alarm system. Therefore, the hospital needs to ask the question: Based on the potential risk to patient safety, is it best to connect the door locks on the psychiatric unit to the fire alarm system so they unlock upon activation of the fire alarm system?

I declined the offer to be an expert witness for the defense, and suggested they settle the lawsuit out of court.

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Oct 23 2014

Infant Abduction Locks

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 6:00 am
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Hospitals want to keep their nurseries, mother/baby units, and pediatric units secure, so they lock the doors. This causes a problem with the Life Safety Code because you can’t lock the doors in the path of egress in a hospital, other than three exceptions: 1) Clinical needs locks, which nurseries, mother/baby units, and pediatric units do not qualify; 2) Delayed egress locks; and 3) Access-control locks. Access-control locks really do not lock the door in the path of egress because a motion sensor will automatically unlock the door as a person approaches. So, in this situation the doors can only be locked using the delayed egress provision (found in section 7.2.1.6.1 of the 2000 Life Safety Code).

But hospitals want the infant security systems used on the babies. These systems have a bracelet that is attached to the baby, and some have bracelets to attach to the mother as well. If the bracelet gets too close to the exit door, an alarm will sound and the door will lock. The problem is, these infant security systems do not comply with any of the three exceptions for locking the doors in the path of egress, listed above. Even if the doors will unlock on a fire alarm the hospital says, that is still not enough to qualify for the any of the three exceptions.

But then the hospital says their accreditation organization approved this door locking arrangement. Why should it be considered non-compliant if the accreditor allows it?  Sorry… just because the accreditation organization says it is okay, still does not make it compliant with the requirements of the Life Safety Code. When the state agency who surveys on behalf of CMS takes a look at it, they will not be as benevolent as the accreditor, and they will cite it as a deficiency.

So, to be compliant with the Life Safety Code, when the doors lock because the bracelet gets too close to the door sensor, the doors should lock into a delayed egress mode (again… see section 7.2.1.6.1 in the 2000 Life Safety Code). Then it would be legal. But the 2012 LSC has made a change in this area and will allow locks on doors for the specialized protective measures for the safety of the occupants (see section 18/19.2.2.2.5.2 in the 2012 LSC). This will allow you to lock the doors without delayed egress, provided you meet the requirements listed in that section. CMS has already approved categorical waivers to allow hospitals to begin using this new section of the 2012 LSC before they adopt it.

Take a look at your locks that are used on the nurseries, pediatric, mother/baby units, and even the ICUs and the ERs. If they are not delayed egress, then take a look at the CMS categorical waivers and consider modifying the doors to meet those requirements.

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Feb 27 2014

Delayed Egress on Doors in Ambulatory Health Care Occupancies

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 6:00 am
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A friend of mine was working on a project involving ambulatory health care occupancy, and they wanted to use a delayed egress lock on an interior door.  The 2000 Life Safety Code (LSC) limits special locking arrangements to exterior doors in ambulatory health care occupancy, but the 2012 LSC does not include that limitation.  They wanted to know what I would recommend.

Well, they are correct: The 2012 edition of the LSC did away with the limitations of the special locking arrangements found in section 7.2.1.6 of the LSC. Section 20/21.2.2.2 of the 2012 edition of the LSC now permits delayed egress locks on any door in the path of egress, where the 2000 edition of the LSC limited them to the exterior door.

I assumed that the individual who asked me the question was bound by the 2000 edition of the LSC, such as a Joint Commission accredited organization, or perhaps a CMS provider for Medicare. My initial thought is the organization would have to comply with the conditions of the 2000 edition of the LSC, and cannot take advantage of the more lenient 2012 edition until such time that edition is adopted by CMS and/or Joint Commission.

However, CMS did issue a categorical waiver to healthcare organizations to allow them to use many of the provisions of the 2012 edition of the LSC now, before the 2012 edition is actually adopted (which may be at least another 12 months away). I reviewed the CMS S&C memo 13-58 once again, and while CMS did state in one of their opening paragraphs that they have the authority to grant waivers for ambulatory surgical centers, they failed to do so in the body of their memo. They have a categorical waiver on doors to allow healthcare occupancies to use the more liberal 2012 LSC position on delayed egress locks, but that categorical waiver only applies to healthcare occupancies, and not ambulatory surgical centers, assuming the ambulatory health care occupancy my friend was referring to was an ambulatory surgical center.

Therefore, I concluded that the organization should (or must) comply with the 2000 edition of the LSC and only install special locking arrangements on exterior doors. Once the 2012 edition of the LSC is adopted, they can then install delayed egress locks on interior doors.

I also mentioned that if the facility in question is only accredited by The Joint Commission, and does not receive any funds from CMS as a Medicare or Medicaid provider, then they could contact the Standards Interpretation Group (SIG) at Joint Commission and ask them if they would accept a Traditional Equivalency to allow them to use special locking arrangements on interior doors of their ambulatory care occupancy. (The telephone number for SIG is:  630-792-5900, select option 6.) My guess is they will, provided the organization meets all the requirements for a traditional equivalency.

If the facility in question actually is part of a larger organization that does have a CMS control number (CCN), then I advised my friend that they have no choice by to comply with the conditions of the 2000 edition of the LSC.

My friend replied asking if they could request a standard CMS waiver to allow the organization to install the delayed egress lock on an interior door now, before the 2012 edition of the LSC is adopted.

My reply was yes, there is always the possibility for a waiver, but CMS will not accept a waiver request unless it is in response to a survey deficiency. In other words, the waiver process is not valid until someone representing CMS cites a deficiency.

As a safety professional, I would never recommend or advise a client to knowingly violate the current edition of the LSC, even though we know that issue will be viewed differently in a more recent edition. There is always the chance that CMS may not adopt the 2012 LSC, although I would be very surprised if they did not.

However, any organization may do what they want, and often times they disregard the advice of a safety professional, and violate the LSC, taking the risk that they will not get caught. In this case, it is understandable as the presumption is the 2012 edition will be effective within the next 12 months or so, and they may feel they will not have any surveys or inspections before then.

So… in summary: The waiver process is not available to them since they have not been cited for non-compliance with the LSC. And, as a safety professional I cannot advise them to violate the LSC. What they do after that is their own business, and risk.

I have some clients who ignore my advice, preferring to ask other safety experts until they find someone who agrees with the answer they want. Hey… it’s their hospital, not mine. I always advise clients to follow the current rules, regulations, codes and standards, but if they decide otherwise, then that’s on them.

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May 02 2013

More on Dead-Bolt Locks

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 6:00 am
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Dead-bolt lock on door Web 2If you search my website on door locks, you will find a few entries concerning dead-bolt locks. For decades hospitals seem to have installed dead-bolt locks on any door they wanted, without any concern for compliance with the Life Safety Code. That’s all changing now, as surveyors and inspectors are becoming better educated on where dead-bolt locks may be used.

The picture to the left shows a dead-bolt lock on a corridor door that is separated from and is not part of the latch-set. It is mounted approximately 12 inches above the latch-set handle and in order to egress through this door, an individual would have to make two releasing motions: 1). unlock the dead-bolt, and 2). turn the latch-set handle. Those two actions make this dead-bolt installation non-compliant with section 7.2.1.5.4 of the 2000 edition of the LSC, which prohibits more than one releasing actions to operate the door.

Some people are quick to point out that dead-bolt locks installed as described above are approved for use on patient room doors in psychiatric units where ‘clinical needs’ locks are permitted. My reply would be, approved by who?  I am aware that Joint Commission has made an interpretation that permits their accredited organizations to have dead-bolt locks on psychiatric units, but that does not address the improper installation of them. Just because Joint Commission says you can have dead-bolt locks, does not mean you are permitted to install them incorrectly.

Hotel Door Latch & Lock Web 2The picture to the left shows a dead-bolt lock that is integrated (not separated) with the latch-set. This arrangement allows the retraction of the dead-bolt simply by turning the latch-set handle, and thereby complying with section 7.2.1.5.4 with a single releasing motion to operate the door. [NOTE: NFPA Healthcare Interpretations Task Force has ruled that pulling or pushing is not considered a motion to operate the door.]

This would be an excellent solution for those situations where you wanted to have a dead-bolt lock installed on a door in the path of egress. This concept of latch-set & dead-bolt lock combined could be obtained in anti-ligature arrangement, and be used in a psychiatric unit.

But there are situations where a traditional dead-bolt lock could be used on a door in the path of egress in a healthcare occupancy. Where? How about in areas where the corridor door is not required to latch?

There are multiple locations in a hospital where doors that open onto a corridor are not required to latch: bathrooms, toilet rooms, shower rooms, and sink rooms that do not contain any combustibles. Also, how about the exterior doors in a Type I or Type II building? Those doors aren’t required to be fire rated, so there is no requirement for exterior doors to latch, either. [Now, most hospitals want their exterior doors to latch even if they aren’t required to, in order to keep the weather and the riff-raff out, but in some rare situations such as the main entrance consisting of sliding glass doors, latching may not be desired.]

Dead-bolt lock on corridor door Web 2The picture to the left shows a door with a dead-bolt lock, but there is no other releasing device mounted on this door, such as a latch-set. While this door would not be permitted in many locations in a hospital corridor because it does not latch, it would be permitted on doors to rooms that are not required to latch, according to 19.3.6.3.1 (toilet rooms, bathrooms, shower rooms, and sink closet not containing combustibles). So a door in the path of egress with a dead-bolt lock and no latch-set on one of these limited rooms would still be compliant with section 7.2.1.5.4 because there is only one releasing action to operate the door: turning the thumb-screw to unlock the door.

Dead-bolt locks that are installed on corridor doors that are required to latch in such a way that they are separated from the latch-set, are just big red flags to surveyors and inspectors. If the door requires two releasing actions to operate the door, then that’s a violation, and they are easy to find. Check out your facility… it may be possible that you have a deficiency that you are not aware.

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