October 14, 2009 | | Comments 2
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Exit signs in mechanical rooms? It depends …

I was asked recently whether exit signs are required in mechanical rooms, as a hospital had received a citation from a Joint Commission surveyor concerning this matter.

There is no specific requirement in the Life Safety Code for mechanical spaces to have exit signs. Moving on to The Joint Commission’s standards, LS.02.01.20, EP 31 indicates the requirement as:

Exit signs are visible when the path to the exit is not readily apparent. Signs are adequately lit and have letters that are 4 or more inches high (or 6 inches high if externally lit).

So, this then defaults to how we would define “readily apparent,” which of course starts to make this look like the ol’ risk assessment.

Exit signs as the subject of a risk assessment? At our Hospital Safety Center Symposium back in May, someone asked whether we had to risk assess everything, to which I replied, “Yes.” Some of my esteemed colleagues there disagreed with my presumed hyperbole, but I’ve not yet imbibed the “surveyor as consistent arbiter of code interpretation” Kool-aid.

Ultimately this comes down to what hazards there are in the mechanical space and how challenging it would be to get out in an emergency. Most regular-sized mechanical spaces probably would not require exit signs, but if there are obstructions to easy egress, then that ups the ante some.

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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 stevemacsafetyspace@gmail.com.

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  1. Does anyone have any ruling yet on (COWS) Computer operated work station on an inpatient unit.

  2. In terms of placement in egress corridors, The Joint Commission has published an FAQ on the matter here: http://www.jointcommission.org/AccreditationPrograms/Hospitals/Standards/09_FAQs/LS/Computers_on_wheels.htm

    Remember that FAQs carry the weight of standards.

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