Health care organizations across the country have spent substantial time and effort to comply with National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requirements related to non-sprinkler system components supported by and/or touching sprinkler piping/hangers. Items being supported by or touching sprinkler piping continues to be one of the most cited life safety issues by The Joint Commission since 2014. 

In order to address the issue, the American Society for Health Care Engineering (ASHE) and Koffel Associates, Columbia, Md., performed a study to investigate hazards posed by nonsprinkler system components being supported by and/or touching sprinkler pipes. This study included a literature review of the history of NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, and NFPA 25, Standard for the Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance of Water-Based Fire Protection Systems. It addressed each technical committee’s substantiation for the requirements. The concern is that the added weight of the components and corrosion risk that the components present could affect pipe performance and life. 

Ten surveys of different existing health care facilities were conducted to determine the typical items supported by and/or touching sprinkler piping. Within these 10 facilities, a total of 1,262 findings of non-sprinkler system components touching and/or being supported by sprinkler piping were found. The most common components were cabling, metal and plastic flexible conduit, rigid conduit, duct work and piping. Cabling was documented in 50% of the findings, and flexible materials combined were documented in over 81% of the findings. Flexible materials generally pose minimal weight and corrosion risk and are the most difficult to manage above the ceiling.

Of the 1,262 identified findings, none indicated that the condition was currently affecting the integrity of the sprinkler system. Additional research is recommended to define the data further, such as actual sprinkler system failure rates over a system’s lifetime and if the failure was caused by items the system was supporting or by components that were touching the sprinkler pipe. This is a prevalent issue within health care that needs to be addressed with maintenance plans and modified regulations. ASHE will be convening a group of subject matter experts to review the report and possibly submit public comments to NFPA 25.

Access the monograph Sprinkler System Support Analysis for more clarification.