Q: I read recently that Joint Commission allows a door with a power operator to not have to positively latch as long as it has 5-lbs. of force keeping it closed. I thought CMS already said that the 5-pound existing door exemption that’s in the Life Safety Code does not apply to CMS facilities. Is the change that they are now allowing the 5-pound exemption on doors with automatic operators and not requiring positive latching on restroom doors? Is it common for an automatic door manufacturer to be unable to provide positive latching?
A: I was not aware that there were any door manufacturers that could not provide positive latching hardware on power-operated doors. Apparently, the Joint Commission is aware of at least one manufacturer and made this exception to their standard. But the 2012 LSC does permit this action under 18.104.22.168.7, whereby powered doors that comply with section 22.214.171.124 (sub-section 126.96.36.199.2(5) requires powered doors to latch upon activation of the fire alarm system) are considered compliant provided the door is equipped with a means to keep the door closed that is acceptable to the AHJ, and is capable of keeping the door closed with 5-lbs. of force. But just because Joint Commission permits this (i.e. it is acceptable to them), it does not mean it is acceptable to all other AHJs. Hospitals will be taking a certain risk if they choose to go this route because it may pass a Joint Commission survey but fail a state agency survey.
You are correct in that CMS does not permit the option of a device with 5-lbs. of force to keep an existing corridor door closed, as described under 188.8.131.52.5. They have prohibited this for a few years and communicated that via informal emails to the accreditors, but did not release that information to the public as far as I know.
Certain corridor doors do not require positive latching (i.e. toilet-room doors, shower-room doors, janitor’s closets that do not store combustibles… see 184.108.40.206.6) and therefore they are permitted to have roller latches if they want. CMS and the accreditors are okay with that, although I’m not sure all surveyors fully understand that concept.