Swingin’ & Slidin’
Why you need to pay particular attention to the inspection of doors
NFPA Journal®, May/June 2009
Doors are an extremely important part of a reliable means of egress, and are thus an important part of any building’s fire protection provisions. Ensuring that doors are not blocked, that their hardware works properly, that fire doors will close and latch, and that they can perform their intended function is an important part of building maintenance.
To make sure that doors work as designed, a new Section 188.8.131.52 “Inspection of Door Openings” was added to the 2009 edition of NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, to address the annual inspection of doors that are required to swing in the direction of egress. According to Section 184.108.40.206.2, doors must swing in the direction of egress when they serve an area with 50 or more occupants; when they are used in an exit enclosure; or when they serve an area containing high-hazard contents, as defined in Section 220.127.116.11.
Section 18.104.22.168.2 does not mandate an annual inspection but rather states that inspections shall be done “where required” by the “Operating Features” section of each occupancy chapter of the Life Safety Code. Assembly, educational, day-care, and board and care occupancies have adopted this provision for annual inspections in accordance with Section 22.214.171.124.
Although no special licensing or certification is required, the door inspector must be familiar with the door components and how they operate, as noted in the Section 126.96.36.199 inspection requirement. Doors are to be inspected from the inside and outside to ensure that they are not damaged and that they work properly. The inspector must evaluate at least 11 items listed in the section before he or she can sign off on the inspection record.
The Life Safety Code contains other door inspection requirements, as well. For example, all egress doors in assembly, educational, and day-care occupancies must be inspected daily. Both new and existing assembly occupancy chapters state in Sections 188.8.131.52 and 184.108.40.206 that “The building owner or agent shall inspect the means of egress to ensure it is maintained free of obstructions, and correct any deficiencies found, prior to each opening of the building to the public.” This chapter also requires that inspections be recorded with dates and times. The monthly inspections required of doors in detention and correctional occupancies must also be recorded by an appropriately trained person. Educational and day-care occupancy chapters contain similar requirements, although the results of those inspections need not be recorded.
Inspection requirements for fire doors can be found in NFPA 80, Fire Doors and Other Opening Protectives. Section 5.2 requires that all fire door assemblies be inspected and tested at least annually, and a written record of the inspection and test must be signed by the person performing the inspection. Again, there is no licensing or certification required for the person performing the inspection, but the standard does require that he or she have “knowledge and understanding of the operating components of the type of door being subject to testing.” NFPA includes a list of items to be inspected and tested as a minimum for both swinging and sliding fire doors.
Compliance with these code provisions will certainly improve the reliability of egress and fire-rated doors and increase the safety of those the doors protect.
Chip Carson, P.E., is president of Carson Associates, Inc., a fire engineering and code consultancy. He is a former member of NFPA's Board of Directors.