Top 5 Possible Changes in the 2012 NFPA Life Safety Code

What's new and how can these changes affect your healthcare facility?

 
If you follow websites like Keyes Life Safety Compliance, you probably already know that the Life Safety Code is a complex system. You’re probably also aware the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS)—the regulatory agency for all hospitals in the United States and accrediting bodies like the Joint Commission Healthcare Facilities Accreditation Program—currently reference the 2000 edition of the NFPA 101 Life Safety Code. But, adoption of the 2012 Edition is just a matter of time (and a lot of red tape). So, what are the top 5 potential changes you need to be aware of in the new code?

 

#1 Fire Rated Doors (19.2.2.2.1 & 8.3.3.1)

Annual fire rated door inspections and tests and documentation will be required.
What’s new?
New requirement. Previous editions of the Life Safety Code did not reference an edition of NFPA 80 which mandates a documented inspection and testing program of all swinging fire-rated door assemblies.
What does that mean for you?
A program will have to be established for all swinging fire-rated door assemblies to be inventoried, and a program established to inspect and test all doors annually, with documentation on file. 


#2 Stairwell Signage (7.2.2.5.4.1)

A change in the stairwell identification signs involving illumination, tactile lettering, dimension and location. This will effectively render the existing stairwell identification signs noncompliant.
 

What’s new?
The 2012 LSC will require the identification signs in new stairwells of three stories or more, where the older editions only required them in five stories or more. New stairwell identification signs will need to be illuminated with emergency power, and the characters on the sign must meet ANSI A117.1. The floor level designation character must be tactile in addition to other requirements in accordance with 7.2.2.5.4.1.
What does that mean for you?
Existing stairwell signs will have to be replaced if they do not already meet the new requirements. There will apparently be no ‘grandfathering’ of existing signs. This new requirement applies to all occupancies and is not limited to just healthcare facilities.


#3 Equipment in Corridors (19.2.3.4)

Certain wheeled equipment will be allowed to be left unattended in the 8-foot wide corridor, provided a minimum of 5-feet of clear width remains.
 

What’s new?
Unattended wheeled medical equipment such as patient lifts, patient transport equipment, medical emergency equipment, and in-use carts and equipment will be permitted in corridors if the unobstructed corridor width is not less than 60 inches. 
What does that mean for you?
While this may seem to be a positive change, educating and training staff to be compliant with this new requirement will be challenging. Frequent monitoring (weekly?) will need to be conducted to ensure compliance.


#4 National Fire Alarm & Signaling Code (9.6.1.3)

Changes in NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, 2010 edition referenced by the 2012 LSC will require additional information for fire alarm testing reports.
 

What’s new?
The 2010 edition of NFPA 72 has evolved to include emergency communication systems and new requirements with the testing and inspection process, especially the report.
What does that mean for you?
Changes to the test report requirements include basic information on the property, specific information on the testing contractor, additional information on the power supplies, and communication equipment used during emergencies. Do not trust you vendor to provide this new information! Start checking the test reports now to ensure you comply by the time the 2012 LSC is adopted.


#5 Construction Barriers (18/19.7.9.2)

Changes with a NFPA standard referenced by the 2012 LSC will likely eliminate the fire-retardant visqueen plastic barriers used during construction.
 

What’s new?
Changes in NFPA 241, Standard for Safeguarding Construction, Alteration, and Demolition Operations, will require 1-hour fire rated barriers in construction areas bordering occupied egress areas, or the construction areas must be fully protected with automatic sprinklers.
What does that mean for you?
NFPA 241 clearly states that plastic sheet (visqueen) dust control barriers are not permitted in construction areas that are not sprinklered. One-hour fire rated barriers with 45 minute fire rated opening protectives will be required.

This can be a complex issue, so if you have any questions, send me an email and I'd be happy to help.

 


Bill Ledger AIA, ACHA, LEED AP
Associate, Registered Architect