Trash Chute Door

Wow… What a scary site to see. Trash bags caught in the trash chute in such a way that it prevents the chute doors from automatically closing. And make no mistake about it, the trash chute doors are required to close and latch, automatically.

Section 19.5.4.3 of the 2000 edition of the Life Safety Code requires trash chutes to discharge into trash collection rooms and the trash collection rooms cannot be used for any other purpose. So, that means you cannot store items that are not related to the trash chute in the room, such as floor scrubber machines.

The scene in the picture is commonly caused by the failure to empty the cart in time, before it fills up to the point where the bags of trash prevent the chute doors from closing. In today’s economy, it is not all that uncommon to learn that staff reductions in the Environmental Services (housekeeping) department prevent adequate staffing to remove the trash bags. While this may be a legitimate reason, someone at this hospital forgot the importance of removing the trash on a regular basis. They need to make this a priority.

From a life safety point of view, it would be better to remove the cart and allow the bags to fall onto the floor. This way it would take a lot more bags of trash to pile up before it would obstruct the chute door from closing. I’m not sure what the hospital’s Infection Control professional would say about that, but I would suggest it as an alternative if the ES department cannot empty the cart often enough.

If you decide to allow the bags of trash to accumulate on the floor in the trash chute discharge room, I suggest you conduct a risk assessment to analyze the risks to patient safety. This way, you can demonstrate to a surveyor that the risks were considered if the surveyor has a problem with bags o’ trash scattered on the floor.

By the way… There are multiple documented incidents of compromised trash chute doors, not unlike the obstruction in the picture, that lead to catastrophic, tragic fires in hospitals, with great loss of life. This is a potentially serious issue and needs to be corrected as soon as the problem is discovered.