Codes, Laws & Regulations for the Professional Locksmith

Today’s security professional must have a firm grasp on all of the codes that affect how they go to market.


Today’s marketplace is much more complicated then when I started running service calls on my bicycle, delivering keys and picking up locks to bring back to my father’s shop. Back then a Best key was considered “Factory Restricted” and the blanks controlled by the manufacturer. We have come a long way in the past 50 years, or have we?

When I look back, the big push was in 1989 after the Meridian fire in Philadelphia when the three firemen lost their lives in a tragic accident when power was pulled from the building that they had just entered and all of the stairwell doors opened when the fail safe electric strikes released the latches. Within a year, the Underwriters Laboratories Fire Mark (F in a circle) would no longer be affixed to any fail safe electric strike. To this day the UL Fire Mark will only appear on “Fail Secure” electric strikes. Building and fire codes were changed to reflect these new codes/laws.

Building & Fire Codes versus today’s laws, what is the difference? Well codes are suggestions made by the associations of code officials. Laws are the result of the code guides submitted by the model code associations to the state governments that turn them into the law. Each state is its own constitutional body that must vote in their state uniformed Building and Fire Code in order for it to become the law in each state. Once voted in by the general assembly, it is the law. Violations are punishable from a misdemeanor to a felony depending on the action and the severity of the incident.

What throws us for a loop is that not all states vote the codes into law at the same time or even vote in the same year model guide codes. You may have a one to two code series difference.

For example, in Pennsylvania they adopted IBC 2000 but skipped over 2003 and then adopted 2006. The reason for this is that there were major changes in the codes and they needed time to train all of their code officials and specifying architects. It is always advisable to call your state Fire Marshall’s office and verify what version of the code guide they are using.

If the answer is we are using the IBC 2006 with changes, that means that they have “BLUE” pages. Blue pages are the language section that must correspond with the state constitutional wording. If you are purchasing your code guide from the International Code Congress, ask if there are blue pages for your state. They will be numbered to correspond with the white pages that must be replaced.

The American with Disabilities’ Act of 1990 (ADA) threw everyone for a loop since it required levers on all door locks/latches accessible to the public. This was a requirement on at least one access door and every door in the means of egress. Even though these doors made up less than one third of the doors within a structure, the architects weren’t having any of that mismatched hardware in their designed buildings. So the change orders went out immediately to switch everything to levers.

For most North American manufacturers, this was not a problem for mortise locks but a big problem for cylindrical levers. Today cylindrical lever locks are a common commodity, but in 1990 they were not. This caused a major retooling of our industrial base.

I developed the ADA course in October of 1990 for the Associated Locksmith of America (ALOA) and in developing the course I discovered that there really wasn’t much to the ADA Act of 1990 that would benefit the locksmiths with the exception of a few areas. I expanded the course to include the model building and fire codes zeroing in on “Means of Egress” since this is the area where locksmiths would get into the most trouble.

This course had become so popular that by 1995 I started training ALOA ACE instructors to teach my course. As a group, we conduct more than 150 seminars a year across the United States.

This content continues onto the next page...

We Recommend