FOCUS on LS.02.01.35 - Items being supported from sprinkler systems

Fire sprinkler piping and the associated hanger and support system cannot be used to support any other items.  Observed violations will be scored at LS.02.01.35 EP 4.  This Element of Performance (EP) is a C standard, and two observations will score a Requirement for Improvement (RFI).  The full reference can be found at NFPA 25-1998:  2-2.2.  “Sprinkler Piping shall not be subjected to external loads by materials either resting on the pipe or hung from the pipe.”

There are several reasons why this is an important standard.  The sprinkler piping system and hangers are designed to support only the static and load of the sprinkler piping, including the water.  Additional lateral forces can occur when water is flowing through the piping.  Some systems also include seismic bracing if the building was constructed in an earthquake zone.  Fire sprinkler piping systems are designed to support only the loads that are part of the fire sprinkler system, and supporting additional items can lead to premature failure of the system during a fire.

Another consideration is the flammability of certain types of wire.  The most common type of item being supported on sprinkler piping is low voltage data cable.  Much of this cable used in hospitals can be flammable.  A bundle of this cable supported by the fire sprinkler piping can burn violently and with enough heat to melt fire sprinkler piping and the supports (even if the piping contains water).

During the analysis of the 2014 Joint Commission findings, 750 findings documented the inappropriate use of sprinkler systems to support other items, with the majority of these items (66 percent) being low voltage cabling.

Items supported from sprinkler system

Items supported from sprnkler system (ribbon)Items supported from sprinkler system - cable

MITIGATION:

Several strategies can be used to prevent this finding during a Joint Commission survey.  Above ceiling spaces should be surveyed on a regular basis when fire walls are inspected.  Hangers for future data cable installations should be considered and planned for during construction projects to allow for the future installation of data cables.  Additionally, hangers will need to be installed to correct existing conditions, and the initial focus should be on raising the portions of cables that are laying on piping rather than correcting the entire cable run, which could be a focus of future activity.

A best practice is to establish a cable management system with an above ceiling work policy and permitting process.  The process can be set up in many forms, but the basic components are an application process prior to any above ceiling work; review and approval of the intended means and methods of installation; and then inspection after the work is complete to ensure that the work is compliant.  A policy and permitting process will assist with both cabling installation and firestopping of the penetrations that are made during cabling installation, thereby maintaining compliance.

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