Strange Observations – Aisle Width

Continuing in a series of strange things that I have seen while consulting at hospitals…

This is an equipment room. It appears to be a water room of some sort as I see a water tank and some water filters. I also see boxes and ‘stuff’ blocking access into and out of this room.

The problem with this situation is the room does not have a clear aisle width. Even though this is an equipment room, you still must maintain a clear aisle width of at least 28-inches for existing conditions, and 36-inches for new construction.

Remember: The exit-access is not limited to the corridor. Every room has an exit-access, and the appropriate aisle width must be maintained in those areas. Section 7.3.4.1.1 and 7.3.4.1.2 of the 2012 Life Safety Code provides the standards that regulate the aisle width.

Equipment in an Alcove

Q: We have an alcove in our surgery center that we are wanting to place patient refrigerator, ice machine, coffee pot. Currently there isn’t a door- it is an alcove. Is this acceptable or do these items need to be behind a door? Our surgery center has badge access, but this is in an area where patient family members are allowed.

A: If the equipment in the alcove is truly out of the required width of the corridor, then I don’t see any problem with it. Just because it is a refrigerator, ice machine or coffee pot should not make a difference. These items are not considered to be hazardous so they are not required to be kept in a designated hazardous room.

Now, if the surgery center is a suite of rooms, then of course there are no corridors inside a suite, and maintaining a certain corridor width is not required.

Clearance Around Equipment

Q: What does the NFPA codes and standards require for clearances around electrical panels, fire alarm pull stations, and med gas panels?

A: The National Electrical Code (NFPA 70, 2011) section 110.26 requires 36 inches clearance around electrical equipment and controls. NFPA does not have a set distance that fire alarm pull stations and med gas stations (shutoff valves) must be maintained, but most authorities ‘borrow’ the 36 inch rule from NFPA 70 and apply it to the fire alarm pull stations and med gas shutoff valves.

It makes sense.