Q: According to the 2012 Life Safety Code, section, the distance between a handrail and adjoining wall should be 2¼-inches. Does this apply to just spaces in which NFPA requires handrails such as stair and ramps, or does it apply to corridors where a handrail is not specifically required by NFPA? If so, then in areas where NFPA does not require a handrail, but one is installed such as in a corridor, can the distance between the handrail and the wall just have to comply with ADA and the building code, which is 1½-inches?

A: Section of the 2012 LSC does require new installation of handrails on stairs and ramps to be at least 2¼ inches from the wall. Since section is a sub-section of 7.2.2 “Stairs”, this 2¼ inch requirement is limited to just stairs and ramps. It does not apply to handrails on corridors.

I do not see any restrictions on clearance between a handrail and the wall in corridors, other than the CMS limitation of 4-inches maximum projection into the corridor.

Strange Observations – That’s a Huge Step

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

The maximum rise in a existing construction step is 8-inches. The step in the picture to get into and out of this electrical room is about 20-inches.

There is nothing in the Life Safety Code that excludes mechanical rooms, or electrical rooms from having to comply with the requirements for a maximum rise in the step.

In this situation, it was going to be difficult to install a set of steps because this opening to the electrical room is directly off of the drive to the receiving dock.

Stairwell Signage

Q: With the new 2012 Life Safety Code adoption, my question is around the stairwell signage and Hospitals are confused whether they have to replace all their signs to meet this new code requirement, or if they are grandfathered-in, and not have to comply. From what I interpret from the code, this would be for new stairwells only… is this correct?

A: No… This applies to all new enclosed stairs serving three stories or more, and all existing enclosed stairs serving five stories or more. There is no ‘Grandfathering’ in the Life Safety Code. There are requirements for new construction (Chapter 18) and there are requirements for existing conditions (Chapter 19), but other than that, there is no ‘Grandfathering’.

When new editions of the Life Safety Code are adopted, facilities must comply with new requirements that apply to existing conditions. Just because the building was compliant with the Life Safety Code at the time of original construction, does not permit the building a ‘pass’ on meeting new requirements that apply to existing conditions.


Strange Observations – Part 46

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

The step up (or down) is more than 8-inches permitted for a riser. Steps will have to be made, and wood cannot be used.

Even existing conditions have to meet the maximum height requirement for risers, as referenced in section (2) of the 2012 Life Safety Code.

Strange Observations – Part 41

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

No… this picture is not an optical illusion. That step between the floor and the sill for the doorway is a doosey.

It definitely is more than the maximum 8-inches height for a riser for existing healthcare occupancy, or 9-inches in height for a riser in Industrial occupancy.

As I’ve said over and over… Mechanical rooms often have many non-compliant safety issues that an astute surveyor can find.

In a situation like this, steps with riser that do not exceed 7-inches (for new construction) need to be installed to access this doorway. And, the steps cannot be made of wood.