A retired fire marshal asked me a question yesterday about the lever position from one of my recent posts.  In the hotel featured in the post, the lever trim for every panic device was in the vertical position.  The lever did retract the latch when I turned it 90 degrees…I’m not sure if the lever position was intentional or if it was the result of an installation problem or product failure (it was not an Allegion product, BTW).

The fire marshal asked if having the lever in this position created a code issue – whether there was a code requirement or accessibility standard that was being violated.  The door could be unlatched with one releasing motion, with one hand, without tight grasping, pinching, or twisting of the wrist.  The operable parts were mounted within the allowable range for most US states – 34-48 inches above the floor.  BHMA A156.41 – Standard for Door Hardware Single Motion to Egress does not specify in which direction the lever must be rotated, stating: A single operation of less than 90º of rotation shall allow the door to be opened.

One potential problem that I could think of was if a code official thought that the hardware required special knowledge or effort to operate.  Hardware used for egress must be operable without a key, tool, special knowledge or effort.  With these doors, the vertical lever was on the access side, but building occupants would have to use the lever to leave the stairwell for reentry if the stair became compromised during a fire.

So my question for you is this:  Have you seen lever handles purposely mounted in the vertical position?  If you are an AHJ, do you have concerns about this application? 


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