NFPA 101 Committees Eye Grab Bars

Bathtub or shower users encounter wet surfaces that are generally hard and smooth, adversely affecting slip resistance; stepping over tub walls creates additional ambulation challenges; and no countermeasures are commonly installed to mitigate the fall danger.

Technical committees for NFPA 101®, the organization's Life Safety Code®, are considering proposed changes to the 2018 edition that would provide for grab bars in new baths and showers in some occupancies to address the risk of falls. An article titled "Grab Hold" in the November/December issue of NFPA Journal explains the proposed changes.

The article's author is Ron Coté, principal life safety engineer at NFPA. He writes that the proposals' substantiation documented these findings:

  • The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission National Electronic Injury Surveillance System estimates that for the product code of bathtubs or showers, there were more than 262,000 visits to U.S. hospital emergency rooms in 2010.
  • On a risk-per-use basis, each step into and out of a bathing facility without grab bars is more dangerous than taking a step up or down on a stair.
  • Bathtub or shower users encounter wet surfaces that are generally hard and smooth, adversely affecting slip resistance; stepping over tub walls creates additional ambulation challenges; and no countermeasures are commonly installed to mitigate the fall danger.

He explains that, for more information, readers should refer to the NFPA 101 First Draft Report that will be posted March 7, 2016.

The changes are, proposed for Chapter 1, Administration, to state that the code's scope includes reducing injuries to occupants from falls; and for Chapter 7, Means of Egress, to provide detailed design and installation criteria for grab bars for new bathtubs, bathtub-shower combinations, and showers.

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