The American Society for Healthcare Engineering (ASHE) has been alerted by members that a number of interpretations regarding revised Conditions of Participation for corridor doors seem to suggest that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) has prohibited mechanisms used to maintain a door-closing force of 5 pounds in addition to the prohibition of roller latches.
In ASHE's communication with CMS, the organization has determined that this is not the case. The adoption of the 2012 Life Safety Code does prohibit the use of roller latches. However, mechanisms used to maintain a door-closing force of 5 pounds are still allowed in certain cases per the Life Safety Code.
An excerpt from the Life Safety Code in this PDF shows the sections in question as the code would be amended by the CMS Conditions of Participation.
Situations in which the door solely depends on closing force without any latch and that can resist a 5-pound force meet the intent of the code and the fire protection needs by ensuring that the door remains closed despite the pressures that would be exerted upon it during a fire.
It is important to note that CMS’ original objection to roller latches isn’t based on the notion that a 5-pound, closing-force requirement for latches is inadequate, but rather that it is difficult to maintain the 5-pound closing force.
ASHE supports the prohibition of roller latches in health care. Although they are advantageous in some situations, the group states that the long-term maintenance and risk of doors opening during a fire event typically outweigh the convenience of the devices.
Chad E. Beebe, AIA, CHFM, CFPS, CBO, FASHE is deputy executive director for the American Society for Healthcare Engineering.