LS.02.01.20 Inappropriate Locking Mechanisms

A means of egress is the path available for a person to leave a building, structure, or space. This route must be unobstructed, and doors along this route cannot be subject to locking from the side that people will be leaving. Therefore, doors within a required means of egress shall not be equipped with a latch or lock that requires the use of a tool or key from the egress side.  This code requirement is vital to allow for “free” egress in cases of emergency.  Unfortunately, exit doors can often create a security weakness. This is especially true when they are located in out-of-the-way places that are unattended by employees or security personnel.  Additionally, for clinical reasons, some areas of hospitals are “secured” to help protect patients such as inpatient mental health patients. In recognition of this need, many building codes have been modified to allow the use of electromechanical locking devices in the means of egress and "delayed-egress locking systems" on emergency exit doors.  The proper application and use of these devices is important to assure that the means of egress is properly maintained providing the necessary safety during an emergency.

ISSUE - Terms and Concepts

RISK – Defining Failure Modes

The increased use of staff access control systems can inadvertently hinder the means of egress in an emergency.  Making sure that these systems are properly located, installed, and coordinated with the fire alarm system is important to assure that the appropriate “free” egress is maintained.

IMPACT – Identifying Patient Outcomes

Locking mechanisms used in the means of egress can cause delays during in the evacuation process in an emergency if these types of devices are not properly coordinated.  In the event of an emergency, delays in the evacuation from the point of origin of the emergency will significantly increase the risk of harm to patients, staff and visitors. The proper use of locking mechanisms, however, helps contribute to patient safety and security.

MITIGATION – Assessment Tools and Resources

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The hospital manages risks associated with its utility systems.
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The hospital maintains the integrity of the means of egress.
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The hospital maintains fire safety equipment and fire safety building features.
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