An open and shut case for specifying the right product

Door closers may not be the first items that come to mind when specifying products for a healthcare project, but making the right choice can make a huge difference to the safety and comfort of the facilities. Mark Stonelake, Technical Services Manager at Samuel Heath, highlights factors that need to be considered

Few areas of the building industry are as demanding as healthcare projects. Whether new build or refurbishment, the development of healthcare facilities place varied and exacting demands on the design and specification team as well as suppliers and contractors.

In addition to a variety of product performance standards, building codes, departmental guidelines and government recommendations, the designers also need to consider the particular requirements of a variety of specialist departments and the differing needs of patients, staff and visitors.

Like any building product, door closers need to be selected with care and rigour. They play a critical role in assuring the efficiency and effectiveness of fire doors. However, properly selected, they can also make an enormous contribution towards reducing risk, improving hygiene and enhancing the safety, comfort and well-being of patients and staff alike.

Performance

Naturally, door closer selection has to start with ensuring that the product satisfies relevant performance standards. In the case of door closers, these cover fire safety and accessibility.

For fire doors, the door closer must carry the CE mark, indicating compliance with BS EN 1154, or in the case of a free swing device, BS EN 1155.

Accessibility is governed by BS8300 and Approved Document M (Section 3 in Scotland, Part R in Northern Ireland), which stipulates maximum forces required to open a door. It should be noted that these requirements are applicable to the entire door assembly and, therefore, door closers and other hardware cannot claim compliance in themselves. However, the performance and efficiency of the door closer will have a direct effect on the door’s ability to meet the requirements.

Finding door closers to meet these requirements should not be difficult, as most reputable manufacturers will offer products that meet the minimum requirements. Added benefits More challenging is the need to meet the additional requirements that might be imposed by the nature and use of healthcare facilities. These can be as varied as the many departments that provide care within the healthcare system.

Institutionalisation

There is a growing desire to ensure that all healthcare interiors are less institutionalised in appearance, but the principle is particularly valued in psychiatric care where safety and security need to be assured while providing a supportive, therapeutic environment.

Materials and finishes redolent of a hard, uncaring, functional institution need to be avoided. Choosing a concealed door closer can make a real difference; they do not have the unsightly, mechanical boxes and control arms of surface mounted devices, helping to create a less institutionalised and more pleasant interior.

Safety and security

Psychiatric care facilities also need to be safe and secure, presenting minimal risk to patients and staff. Here again, door closer selection can be critical, particularly where anti-ligature and/or anti-barricade measures need to be incorporated.

Surface-mounted devices are often unwelcome, for obvious reasons, but concealed door closers are ideal thanks to the many benefits that ensue from the fact that the door closer is totally concealed when the door is closed, as well as their ability to be mounted at a low level in the door. Concealed door closers are a preferred option for many anti-ligature and anti-barricade systems.

The risk of ligature attachment can exist with any door installation that is not constantly monitored. Total concealment of the door closer obviously means that, when the door is closed, the concealed door closer poses no temptation or risk to patients and other usersI. Installation towards the bottom of the door further reduces the likelihood of use as a ligature point.

The Department of Health Healthcare Technical Memorandum, HTM05-02 recommends the use of free-swing, self-closing devices on patient bedrooms provided specifically for those suffering from mental illness and for people with learning disabilities.

Vandalism

Door controls that have been damaged through vandalism can prevent a fire door from performing correctly, which, in the case of fire, can have serious, potentially fatal consequences. Concealed door closers present very little opportunity for the would-be vandal to damage its mechanisms.

Hygiene

Jamb-mounted concealed door closers can also contribute towards cleanliness and hygiene, paramount considerations in health and care facilities. The door closer’s concealed mounting means that it offers minimal surfaces on which dust and other potentially harmful detritus can accumulate, whilst the fact that it is installed at a low position in the door facilitates quick and easy inspection and cleaning.

Making the right choice

Simply selecting a door closer on performance criteria alone will be insufficient for many healthcare projects, especially in more specialised areas of application. Meeting particular requirements, adding value to a project and enhancing the day-to-day lives of patients and staff relies on considering additional factors that can enhance safety, comfort and well-being.

In such circumstances, concealed door closers can prove invaluable.