Safety

Q&A: Mechanical room storage, risk assessments, patient rooms

Healthcare Life Safety Compliance, January 1, 2019

This is an excerpt from a member only article. To read the article in its entirety, please login or subscribe to Healthcare Life Safety Compliance.

Editor’s note: Each month, Brad Keyes, CHSP, owner of Keyes Life Safety Compliance, answers your questions about life safety compliance. Our editorial advisory board also reviews the Q&A column. Follow Keyes’ blog on life safety at www.keyeslifesafety.com for up-to-date information.  

Mechanical room storage

Q: Are we allowed to store beds and other hospital equipment in our mechanical rooms?

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 Life Safety Code® (LSC), storage in mechanical rooms is not prohibited, but there are some exceptions and some requirements that you must meet. If the mechanical room opens onto an exit enclosure, section 7.1.3.2.1 (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, items can be stored in the mechanical room as long as they are orderly and neat. Storage cannot obstruct access to electrical panels, fire extinguishers, or fire alarm pull stations, and storage must be clear of all sprinklers 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 it was 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 it 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. All that said, please check with your state and local authorities as they may have other codes or standards that may prohibit storage in a mechanical room.

This is an excerpt from a member only article. To read the article in its entirety, please login or subscribe to Healthcare Life Safety Compliance.

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