Roller latches…. Many of us already know that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) banned the use of roller latches in hospitals by March 13, 2006. So that would mean roller latches are not permitted anywhere in the hospital, right?
Well, that is not the entire truth. Actually, there are situations where roller latches are permitted in hospitals, and still comply with the CMS directive. If a door is equipped with roller latches and the door is an interior door inside a suite-of-rooms, and the door does not serve a fire rated opening (such as an exit stairwell, or hazardous room), then the door may have roller latches, since the door is not required to close and latch. Actually, there are no requirements for doors inside a suite of rooms (other than exits and hazardous rooms) so logically speaking, if there are doors, then they are not required to close and latch.
So now you may be thinking outside of a suite-of-rooms, roller latches would not be permitted, right? Well, actually, there is one more situation where roller latches would be permitted. Take a look at section 188.8.131.52.2 in the 2000 edition of the LSC. This is the section that describes how a corridor door should be provided with a means to keep the door closed. Exception #1 allows doors to toilet rooms, bathrooms, shower rooms, and sink closets where combustibles are not stored to be exempt from the need to have a device to keep the door closed. Therefore, if these doors are not required to have a latching device, then roller latches would be permitted in this situation.
The reason why CMS banned roller latches from doors that are required to be kept closed (such as corridor doors) is the result of investigations of fires in hospitals. It is documented that many lives have been lost where hospital patients could not get up and walk out under their own power during a fire emergency, and they lay in bed and died from smoke inhalation. The doors to patient rooms were commonly provided with roller latches so staff could walk-in hands-free, without having to turn or twist a door knob. However, during a fire, the heat build-up in the corridor created pressure which over-came the latching force of a roller latch and the patient room doors popped open, allowing smoke to enter the room.
It probably is a good idea to eliminate all roller latches in your facility, but if you have roller latches in one of these two situations and a surveyor or inspector catches it, you might be able to explain away a citation if the door in question is not required to latch.