May 18 2012

Walking Surfaces

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 5:00 am

Walking surfaces in the means of egress are required to be even. This is one situation in the NFPA codes and standards where they clearly defined what ‘even walking’ surface actually is required to be. Take a look at section of the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code, which says:

Abrupt changes in elevation of walking surfaces shall not exceed 1/4 inch. Changes in elevation exceeding 1/4 inch but not exceeding 1/2 inch shall be beveled 1 to 2. Changes in elevation exceeding 1/2 inch shall be considered a change in level and shall be subject to the requirements of 7.1.7.


Section 7.1.7 defines the walking surface for a ramp not to exceed 1 and 20 slope.

So, it is pretty clear that the LSC does not want abrupt changes in the walking surface to exceed 1/4 inch or 1/2 inch if it is beveled. This is logical as most people only lift their feet the minimum amount to walk safely through the path of egress. I remember a maintenance man in the hospital where I worked who ‘shuffled’ his feet as he walked, never really lifting his shoes. This eventually caught up to him as one time he caught the leading edge of his shoe on the transition where the  PVC floor tile met the concrete floor, and down he went. The edge of the PVC floor tile was 1/8 inch above the concrete floor, which by section definition, met the requirements of the LSC. But unfortunately, that 1/8 inch was enough to trip this poor individual, and cause him to fall.

In the picture above, the very nice throw rug was measured to be about 3/4 inch thick, which exceeds the limitations of Not knowing whose office the rug was located in, I informed the staff that it was a violation and needed to be removed. I found out later that the office belonged to the Chief Nurse Officer of the hospitals and she was very upset to learn that her rug was not permitted.

The picture to the left shows a more common problem. The exit is an emergency fire exit and is not used as an entrance into the hospital, which is quite common. While there is no NFPA standard that says the exit discharge (the path from the exit door to the public way) is required to be paved with concrete, crushed stone, bricks or asphalt, we revert back to section which requires a level walking surface in the means of egress. Make no doubt about it, the means of egress includes not only corridors, but aisles in rooms, and the discharge from the exit.

The common position by most (if not all) AHJs who inspect hospitals is the grassy walkway shown in this picture, between the exit door and the public way does not qualify with section for abrupt changes no more than 1/4 inch. Therefore, an improved level walking surface is required between the exit door and the public way, which is usually poured concrete. Another factor about grassy walking surfaces in the cold weather states is the lack of snow and ice removal during the winter time. With a concrete walkway, the path is likely to be cleared of snow and ice, but without a designated path, it is not as likley that the snow and ice would be removed.

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Jan 29 2012

Hot Work in Construction

Category: BlogBKeyes @ 6:00 pm

In the last post that I made, I mentioned ‘Hot Work’ in construction sites in a hospital require special fire barrier protection, which is a 1-hour fire rated barrier from the floor to the deck above, between the construction and any occupied areas. This is found in NFPA 241 Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alterations, and Demolition Operations (2000 edition), section 8.6.2. Now, Joint Commission does not enforce this level of protection, and all they require is flame resistant smoke-tight barriers that extend from the floor to the ceiling, mainly because the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code only references the 1996 edition of NFPA 241, and not the 2000 edition of NFPA 241. The 1996 edition of NFPA 241 did not require the 1-hour barriers around ‘Hot Work’, only flame resistant smoke-tight barriers.

As a hospital facility manager, you need to be aware of this difference because many of the state agencies who survey on behalf of CMS will enforce NFPA 241 (2000) requirements. Here are examples of what ‘Hot Work’ can be:

  • Welding
  • Brazing
  • Soldering
  • Cutting with a torch
  • Grinding

It is suggested that you review your own policies on construction barriers and consider having 1-hour fire rated barriers whenever any ‘Hot Work’ is being done on a demolition, renovation, construction or remodel project.

There may be times when a service technician will need to use an open flame torch to solder or braze a fitting for a repair function. While this should be tracked and covered with your own ‘Hot Work Permit’ program, it is important to identify that it is not construction and 1-hour fire rated barriers are not required.

NFPA does not define ‘construction’ so I turned to the dictionary which says construction is: The act of putting together to form an assembly. So, remodeling something, or a renovation process appears to me to be construction and would require the 1-hour barriers for ‘Hot Work’. But repairs would not.

But my opinion does not count. Since NFPA does not clearly define what ‘construction’ is, the authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) are the ones who get to make this determination. Don’t be caught by surprise: If you haven’t already done so, I suggest you contact you local and state AHJs and ask them what they require for fire barriers when you have ‘Hot Work’ in construction sites inside the hospital.

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