March 23, 2011 | | Comments 1
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Mac’s Safety Space: Life Safety Code retractable hooks

Q: I had a Life Safety Code question I was hoping you could help me with when you get a chance. Specifically, our nursing staff wants us to mount retractable stainless steel hooks on the inside of our patient room doors to be used with “gait belts” for physical therapy and for turning patients in their beds. These patient room doors go directly from the patient room into the corridor without any intervening room(s), and the door opens inward (into the patient room). None of these doors are part of a rated smoke or fire wall assembly.

All of our patient room doors are 1 and ¾ inch thick, solid-bonded core wood doors that resist the passage of smoke for up to 20 minutes and have a metal frame. Our hospital is NOT fully sprinkled, which means that some of these doors are in a smoke compartment that is protected throughout by an approved, supervised automatic sprinkler system in accordance with Section 19.3.5.2 of Chapter 19, Existing Health Care Occupancies, of the Life Safety Code of 2000, while some are not.

The hooks are mounted on a 4-inch by 4-inch wide stainless steel platform that stands 1 inch high. The platform would be secured to the door by four sheet metal or wood screws that would extend into the door about 1 inch, but would NOT come out the other side. The hook retracts very easily because it is designed to prevent suicides.

Unfortunately, I do not have a manufacturer name or model number, because our nursing department purchased them without checking with us first and now want us to install them. Again, we have a concern about securing this or any other device to corridor doors, but I can’t find a specific reference to this in the Life Safety Code, which is why I’m asking for your help.

A: Happy to be of service. I ran this by my Greeley colleague Brad Keyes and we are in agreement that as long as the doors in question are not fire rated doors or doors that serve a smoke compartment barrier (which you indicated was the case), then there should be no problem from a Life Safety Code perspective . Corridor doors to patient rooms are only required to resist the passage of smoke, regardless whether the smoke compartment has a sprinkler or not.

That said, whenever I encounter folks who are engaging in these types of modifications, I encourage them to check with the local AHJ to run it by them. You certainly know your AHJ better than I do, so you definitely have a better sense of how to (or even if to) approach this. I’ve just seen too many folks that went ahead with the modification without checking with the locals, only to have to undo everything when someone gets a hair across their posterior because they weren’t consulted (and I suspect you know if you have that type of a personality in the mix).

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Filed Under: Life Safety Code

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. I have a comment or a question; however you would like to classify it. The individual with the question stated the hooks are retractable to prevent suicides yet they plan to hang “gait belts” on them. Wouldn’t that potentially create a ligature problem because the hook can no longer retract and the belt will be readily available and “hanging” on a hook? If a person decided to commit suicide they only need to lean forward after wrapping the belt around their neck to cut off the airflow. Just would like to add caution to this type of installation from a similar experience. You can never tell someone’s state of mind and what they are possibly willing to do.

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