August 06, 2008 | | Comments 1
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Clearance around extinguishers and medical gas shut-offs

Let’s talk about clearance around fire extinguishers, medical gas zone shut-off valves, and the like.

The key concept that comes into play during survey is whether access to the equipment is obstructed.
I have heard anecdotally that there are some Joint Commission (formerly JCAHO) surveyors who are applying the requirements for clearance around electrical panels found in the NFPA 70, National Electrical Code, which calls for 36 inches of clear space in front of the panel.
But in the absence of a national standard that specifically identifies the device we’re seeking clearance around, it ultimately comes down to a risk assessment.
In conducting a risk assessment, remember extinguishers, medical gas shut-off valves, etc., are used solely in the case of an emergency, so when you need it, you need it “now”. Anything that impedes that process can (and almost certainly rightly so) increase the risk to life, health, and safety, which pretty much flies in the face of good risk management.

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Steve MacArthur About the Author: Steve MacArthur is a safety consultant with The Greeley Company in Danvers, Mass. He brings more than 30 years of healthcare management and consulting experience to his work with hospitals, physician offices, and ambulatory care facilities across the country. He is the author of HCPro's Hospital Safety Director's Handbook and is contributing editor for Briefings on Hospital Safety. Contact Steve at

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  1. Any new updates on the clearance around extinguishers, medical gas shut-offs and pull stations? Thank you.

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