Wet Locations

Q: How are ‘wet locations’ defined in the NFPA codes and standards? We are not clear if we have any ‘wet locations’ in our hospital.

A: You probably do, based on the NFPA definitions. NFPA 99 (1999 edition) defines wet locations as a patient care area that is normally subject to wet conditions while patients are present. This includes standing fluids on the floor or drenching of the work area, either of which condition is intimate to the patient or staff. Routine housekeeping procedures and incidental spillage of liquids do not define a wet location. In a typical hospital, this NFPA 99 definition applies to operating rooms, procedural rooms and similar patient areas where fluids are accumulating on the floor or drenching the work area. This NFPA 99 definition excludes those areas such as janitor’s closets, mop sinks, hand-washing sinks, etc., mostly because patients are not in the area. However, there is the NFPA 70, National Electrical Code (1999 edition) definition of wet location that does not have patient care as a defining factor. Installations underground or in concrete slabs or masonry in direct contact with the earth, and locations subject to saturation with water or other liquids, such as equipment washing areas constitute a wet location. While the subject “wet location” is the same, the definition is significantly different, as one pertains to patient care areas (which excludes routine housekeeping areas) and the other is more of a general nature. The requirements for both are different. Incidentally, this issue of wet location has come up over the years and to avoid further confusion NFPA 99, 2012 edition will change their definition to be called “Wet Procedural Location”.