Mechanical Room Storage

By Brad Keyes…

Q: I have a storage question for you that relates to storing beds and other hospital equipment in our mechanical rooms. Is this allowed or would I be cited for storing things in the mechanical room?

 A: To be sure, mechanical rooms are designed to house mechanical equipment, and storage should not obstruct access to the mechanical equipment. According to the 2012 edition of the LSC, storage in mechanical rooms is not prohibited, but there are some exceptions and there are some requirements that you must meet. If the mechanical room opens onto an exit enclosure, section (9)(c) of the 2012 LSC now permits existing openings from mechanical spaces to exit enclosures to remain provided the door assembly is properly fire-rated; the mechanical space is not used for fuel-fire equipment; the space contains no storage of combustible materials; and the building is protected throughout by sprinklers. So, if that describes your situation, then storage of combustible materials such as beds (i.e. mattresses), and boxes of supplies would NOT be permitted. But where the mechanical room does not open onto an exit enclosure the items stored in the mechanical room must be orderly and neat. Storage cannot obstruct access to electrical panels, fire extinguishers, and fire alarm pull stations, and storage must be clear of all sprinklers located on a horizontal plane 18 inches below the sprinkler deflector. If the items stored in the mechanical room are combustible (cardboard boxes, paper or plastic wrapping, linens, etc.) then the mechanical room must meet normal hazardous room requirements. If the room is new (meaning if the room has been designated for storage on or after July 5, 2016) or was designed to meet new construction requirements, then it must be protected with automatic sprinklers and the walls constructed from the floor to the deck above with 1-hour fire rating, with a ¾ hour fire rated, self-closing, positive latching door. Be careful with this as new construction hazardous rooms were required to be 1-hour fire rated as far back as the 1967 edition of the LSC. If the room is considered existing (meaning the room was designated as storage before July 5, 2016 and there have not been any major renovations since), then it must be protected with automatic sprinklers with walls that are smoke resistant and extend from the floor to the ceiling, and protected with a 1 ¾ inch solid bonded wood core door that is smoke resistant and self-closing and positive latching, or if not sprinklered, then the room is required to be protected with 1-hour fire rated barriers. However, please check with your state and local authorities as they may have other codes or standards that may prohibit storage in a mechanical room.

Brad Keyes
Brad Keyes, CHSP

Brad is a former advisor to Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program (HFAP) and former Joint Commission LS surveyor. He guides clients through  organizational assessment; management training; ongoing coaching of task groups; and extensive one-on-one coaching of facility leaders. He analyzes and develops leadership effectiveness and efficiency in work processes, focusing on assessing an organization’s preparedness for a survey, evaluating processes in achieving preparedness, and guiding organizations toward compliance. 

As a presenter at national seminars, regional conferences, and audio conferences, Brad teaches the Keyes Life Safety Boot Camp series to various groups and organizations. He is the author or co-author of many HCPro books, including the best-selling  Analyzing the Hospital Life Safety Survey, now in its 3rd edition. Brad has also authored a variety of articles in numerous publications addressing features of life safety and fire protection, as well as white papers and articles on the Building Maintenance Program. Currently serving as the contributing editor of the monthly HCPro newsletter Healthcare Life Safety Compliance  gives Brad further insight into the industry’s trends and best practices.