If you search my website on door locks, you will find a few entries concerning dead-bolt locks. For decades hospitals seem to have installed dead-bolt locks on any door they wanted, without any concern for compliance with the Life Safety Code. That’s all changing now, as surveyors and inspectors are becoming better educated on where dead-bolt locks may be used.
The picture to the left shows a dead-bolt lock on a corridor door that is separated from and is not part of the latch-set. It is mounted approximately 12 inches above the latch-set handle and in order to egress through this door, an individual would have to make two releasing motions: 1). unlock the dead-bolt, and 2). turn the latch-set handle. Those two actions make this dead-bolt installation non-compliant with section 22.214.171.124.4 of the 2000 edition of the LSC, which prohibits more than one releasing actions to operate the door.
Some people are quick to point out that dead-bolt locks installed as described above are approved for use on patient room doors in psychiatric units where ‘clinical needs’ locks are permitted. My reply would be, approved by who? I am aware that Joint Commission has made an interpretation that permits their accredited organizations to have dead-bolt locks on psychiatric units, but that does not address the improper installation of them. Just because Joint Commission says you can have dead-bolt locks, does not mean you are permitted to install them incorrectly.
The picture to the left shows a dead-bolt lock that is integrated (not separated) with the latch-set. This arrangement allows the retraction of the dead-bolt simply by turning the latch-set handle, and thereby complying with section 126.96.36.199.4 with a single releasing motion to operate the door. [NOTE: NFPA Healthcare Interpretations Task Force has ruled that pulling or pushing is not considered a motion to operate the door.]
This would be an excellent solution for those situations where you wanted to have a dead-bolt lock installed on a door in the path of egress. This concept of latch-set & dead-bolt lock combined could be obtained in anti-ligature arrangement, and be used in a psychiatric unit.
But there are situations where a traditional dead-bolt lock could be used on a door in the path of egress in a healthcare occupancy. Where? How about in areas where the corridor door is not required to latch?
There are multiple locations in a hospital where doors that open onto a corridor are not required to latch: bathrooms, toilet rooms, shower rooms, and sink rooms that do not contain any combustibles. Also, how about the exterior doors in a Type I or Type II building? Those doors aren’t required to be fire rated, so there is no requirement for exterior doors to latch, either. [Now, most hospitals want their exterior doors to latch even if they aren’t required to, in order to keep the weather and the riff-raff out, but in some rare situations such as the main entrance consisting of sliding glass doors, latching may not be desired.]
The picture to the left shows a door with a dead-bolt lock, but there is no other releasing device mounted on this door, such as a latch-set. While this door would not be permitted in many locations in a hospital corridor because it does not latch, it would be permitted on doors to rooms that are not required to latch, according to 188.8.131.52.1 (toilet rooms, bathrooms, shower rooms, and sink closet not containing combustibles). So a door in the path of egress with a dead-bolt lock and no latch-set on one of these limited rooms would still be compliant with section 184.108.40.206.4 because there is only one releasing action to operate the door: turning the thumb-screw to unlock the door.
Dead-bolt locks that are installed on corridor doors that are required to latch in such a way that they are separated from the latch-set, are just big red flags to surveyors and inspectors. If the door requires two releasing actions to operate the door, then that’s a violation, and they are easy to find. Check out your facility… it may be possible that you have a deficiency that you are not aware.