The NCC contains a Performance Requirement that requires a sanitary compartment to be constructed with sufficient space or other means to permit an unconscious occupant to be removed from the compartment. The corresponding Deemed-to-Satisfy Provisions, F2.5 of NCC Volume One and 126.96.36.199 of NCC Volume Two, require the door to a fully enclosed sanitary compartment to open outwards or slide or be readily removable from the outside of the compartment, unless there is a clear space of at least 1.2 m between the closet pan and the doorway. This article explains the background to this requirement and provides guidance on how it should be applied.
First, some history
These requirements originated from Queensland and Western Australia variations to the code in the 1990s. Evidence from emergency service agencies that people who are feeling unwell often retire to a sanitary compartment and can, as a result of their condition, lose consciousness and collapse to the floor, was considered as part of an ABCB initiative to reduce the number of State and Territory variations to the BCA.
There were numerous cases reported where first responders had been unable to reach a person who had collapsed in a sanitary compartment because their body was wedged between the toilet pan and an inward opening door. This could delay assistance being provided or risk injury to the occupant in trying to reach them. In response to this evidence, all States and Territories agreed to adopt the requirements expressed in the Queensland and Western Australia variations as a national requirement. This occurred at Amendment 3 of BCA 1996.
Some important principles to remember
- The requirements only apply to a compartment containing a closet pan or urinal. They do not apply to a bathroom that only contains a shower/bath and a basin (refer to the definition of sanitary compartment).
- The requirements do not apply if the sanitary compartment is not fully enclosed, for example where the partition or door has a gap to the floor that is big enough to allow removal of an occupant.
- The clear space of 1.2 m, measured in accordance with Figure F2.5 of NCC Volume One or Figure 188.8.131.52 of NCC Volume Two, is only measured to the closet pan. Other fixtures can be within the clear space. However, if the sanitary compartment is an accessible unisex sanitary compartment, the circulation spaces and clearance requirements contained in AS 1428.1 would also have to be met.
- If the door to a fully enclosed sanitary compartment either opens outwards, slides or is readily removable from the outside (e.g. via “lift-off” hinges), there is no need to provide a 1.2 m clear space between the closet pan and the doorway.
The following figures show different configurations and compliance options.