Power Operated Doors Do Not Have to Latch

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 19.3.6.3.7, whereby powered doors that comply with section 7.2.1.9 (sub-section 7.2.1.9.2(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 19.3.6.3.5. 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 19.3.6.3.6) 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.

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.