Q: We were just surveyed (healthcare occupancy) and were cited for not having GFCI outlets installed within 6 inches of a sink location. At the time of construction this was not a requirement. I cannot find anywhere that states we must update upon change of the codes. I would prefer to find something that says upgrades are not required unless there are modifications/changes to the electrical system. What are your thoughts on this, please?
A: Article 210.8(B)(5) of NFPA 70-2011 does require GFCI outlets within six feet of a sink, but it does depend when the outlets were originally installed. According to section 9.1.2 of the 2012 LSC, it says electrical wiring and equipment shall be in accordance with NFPA 70 unless such installations are approved existing installations, which shall be permitted to be continued in service. When those outlets were originally installed, were they required to be GFCI outlets? If yes, then you’re still required to install them today because they were not approved when they were originally installed. According to the records I have, GFCI outlets were required within six feet of a sink back in the NFPA 70-1999 edition which was referenced by the 2000 LSC.
But there is another concern to deal with and that is the word ‘approved’. According to section 126.96.36.199 of the 2012 Life Safety Code the authority having jurisdiction shall determine whether the provisions of the LSC are met. This means, the AHJ determines whether or not the outlets were originally approved. This means if you were cited by your accreditation organization (AO) for not having GFCI outlets within 6-feet of a sink you cannot use the argument that the non- GFCI outlets were approved by your state or local AHJ. The AO is an AHJ and they get to determine what is approved or not, and they are under no obligation to accept the approval of a different AHJ.
So, the bottom line is this: If you can prove the outlets were not required to be GFCI at the time they were installed, you can submit this response to the AHJ as part of your plan of correction and see if they accept that. However, be prepared for the AHJ to decline that argument and still require you to install GFCI outlets. They have that authority according to section 188.8.131.52 of the 2012 LSC
Brad Keyes, CHSP, is the owner of KEYES Life Safety Compliance, and his expertise is in the management of the Life Safety Program, including the Environment of Care and Emergency Management programs.