Brad… Are You Nuts…?!

Q: I have a Medical Office Building with multiple exam rooms, and it is constructed with 5-foot wide corridors. This building followed design reviews including Life Safety expertise from the local AHJ. In many cases, an alcohol-based hand-rub (ABHR) sanitizer dispenser is located just outside the exam rooms in the egress corridor. Why are you saying these dispensers are not permitted especially when section 19.3.2.6 says they are? Are you nuts…?

A: Well, I may be a bit crazy, but I’m pretty sure ABHR dispensers are not permitted in medical office building corridors.

Section 19.3.2.6 is applicable for healthcare occupancies, such as hospitals, nursing homes, long-term care facilities, etc. And section 21.3.2.6 is applicable for ambulatory health care occupancies such as Ambulatory Surgical Centers. But these sections are only applicable to their respective occupancies, and the typical Medical Office Building is not any of these… they are business occupancies. And unfortunately for you, there is nothing similar in business occupancy chapters 38 and 39 for ABHR dispensers.

It really all starts with section 8.7.3.2 which says no storage or handling of flammable liquids shall be permitted in any location where such storage would jeopardize egress from the structure. The ABHR gel or foam product in these dispensers have a high enough alcohol content to cause it to be classified as a Class 1-B flammable liquid, according to NFPA 30. So, according to 8.7.3.2, flammable liquids (i.e. ABHR dispensers) cannot be used in a corridor of a facility. But sections 19.3.2.6 and 21.3.2.6 permit ABHR product and dispensers in corridors of healthcare occupancies and ambulatory health care occupancies… so what’s up with this conflict?

According to section 4.4.2.3 whenever the occupancy chapter differs with the core chapters, then the occupancy chapter governs. So, on the issue of ABHR dispensers, they are permitted in the corridors of healthcare occupancies and ambulatory health care occupancies because those chapters have specific language that over-rides the core chapter.

But not so for business occupancies. Chapters 38 & 39 are silent regarding ABHR dispensers. Therefore, you cannot have ABHR dispensers in the corridors of business occupancies because they are a flammable liquid.

Even if the Medical Office Building was re-classified as ambulatory health care occupancy (I don’t recommend it), you still could not place the ABHR dispensers in the corridors because the corridors are not 6-feet wide.

I don’t see that this issue will likely be cited by surveyors, for a couple of reasons: 1) Not all surveyors know and understand this issue very well. They know ABHR dispensers are permitted in hospitals and figure the requirements for hospitals are more restrictive than business occupancies, and would allow them in a medical office building; 2) Typically, the surveyors who survey medical buildings (i.e. business occupancies) are nurse surveyors or physician surveyors…. not Life Safety surveyors, so they would not be as familiar with the LSC on this issue.