Panic hardware is usually installed on outswinging doors, because it is typically used when there is an occupant load that requires doors which swing in the direction of egress. In almost all cases, these doors are in the path of egress that eventually leads to the exit discharge. But – is it acceptable to install panic hardware on inswinging doors?
There is one such application that comes up quite often, where fire exit hardware (panic hardware for fire doors) might be desired. When an operating room in a health care facility has a pair of inswinging doors that are fire-rated with automatic operators, fire exit hardware is the least problematic way of latching the doors. I have also received this question relative to other inswinging applications where electric latch retraction hardware is desired.
I have scoured the model codes and I have not found a prohibition on panic hardware installed on inswinging doors or doors that do not lead to an exit. Of course, the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) may not allow this application if he/she feels that the panic hardware creates a hazardous situation.
When the doors are used in an area of “trained traffic,” like an operating room, it is less likely that someone will mistake the doors for an egress route. To avoid confusion, the AHJ may require the doors to be clearly marked “Not an Exit” or “No Exit.” NFPA 101, OSHA, and the International Fire Code all have provisions for identification of doors that look similar to exits, but are not part of a means of egress. For example, the OSHA regulations state: “1910.37(b)(5) –Each doorway or passage along an exit access that could be mistaken for an exit must be marked “Not an Exit” or similar designation, or be identified by a sign indicating its actual use (e.g., closet).”
Keep in mind, because the issue of panic hardware on non-exit doors is not specifically addressed by the model codes, the interpretation will be up to the AHJ. If you have ever dealt with this application, I’d love to hear about it. Was the panic hardware allowed or prohibited? Was signage required on the door, or was there another means of avoiding confusion?
UPDATE: When I asked for AHJ feedback on this application, two AHJs thought panic hardware on an inswinging door would be ok but might require signage depending on the application. Another pointed out that the definition of panic hardware per the IBC is: “A door-latching assembly incorporating a device that releases the latch upon the application of a force in the direction of egress travel.” Panic hardware does release the latch when a force is applied in the direction of egress travel (a hospital latch on the push side of the door does too), but I would not have interpreted the definition to mean that a panic can only be used on the egress side of a door. Like I said above…this one will be up to the AHJ’s interpretation.