Life Safety Compliance: As Easy As Closing A Door

Szpytek Stan PHOTO for Column

As life safety consultant conducting mock life safety surveys at provider facilities around the nation, a common deficiency that I frequently see cited is K-18 as it pertains to doors to residents’ rooms. Quite simply, tags are being issued when the door to a resident’s room does not positively latch or some type of obstruction (typically a bed) is so positioned that it restricts the door from closing during the survey.From a training and cost perspective, this is one of the easiest tags to avoid. The recommendation for preventing this citation is to have the center’s maintenance team develop and implement a well-documented, preventative maintenance program to ensure that all doors within the facility properly close and latch as required.

This concept should not be limited to doors to residents’ rooms, but every door that is equipped with a latch within the facility. A door in a health care center is a barrier that will help limit the passage of smoke during a fire emergency. In most cases, a simple adjustment to the door or latching mechanism will ensure that the door operates in accordance with design criteria and regulations.

In older buildings, it is not uncommon to find the bed in a resident’s room that is closest to the hallway door positioned away from the back wall and directly within the swing path of the door, subsequently preventing complete closure.

Additionally, beds are sometimes moved around in accordance with a resident’s specific request to position the bed directly adjacent to the hallway wall. When this occurs, the foot of the bed is often positioned within the swing path of the door. More commonly, beds are moved around during the housekeeping process and not placed back in their original position, which is typically free and clear of the door.

Staff must be trained to make sure that beds or other items are never positioned within the swing-path of a door so they can close and latch without impediment. The corridor wall and door to every room are part of the passive fire and life safety features built into every health care facility and must be maintained in a condition that provides residents and staff with appropriate compartmentalization within the building.

In addition to survey considerations, every staff member needs to understand that a properly functioning and compliant door during a fire inside of a health care facility is an essential component of the environment of care that will help limit the spread of smoke and fire during a real-world emergency.

Stan Szpytek is the president of Fire and Life Safety (FLS) and is the Life Safety/Disaster Planning Consultant for the Arizona Health Care Association and California Association of Health Facilities (CAHF). Szpytek is a former deputy fire chief and fire marshal with more than 35 years of experience in life safety compliance and emergency preparedness. FLS provides life safety and disaster planning consultative services to healthcare and senior living providers around the nation. For more information, visit or email Szpytek at

Leave a comment

Filed under health care, Long term care

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s